Whenever someone asks me what my favorite film is, my mind always betrays me by going completely and utterly blank. My head might as well be hollow. Or maybe a better analogy would be that those kinds of questions always turn my brain into a desert…with a dry tumbleweed bouncing along in the wind, mocking me as I try to come up with an (invariably lame) answer. It’s the same as when someone asks me where I want to go eat, or what I want to eat. When I am by myself, without fail I almost always want to eat either a burrito or pho…but being asked by someone else what I want, suddenly reminds me there are so many possibilities! OMG! What do I pick?
And then being overwhelmed, I pick nothing…or I settle on a safe, inoffensive answer that disappoints the person who asked, making me feel foolish for claiming to be a filmmaker. Having tortured my brain with this pickle too many times already, I now politely refuse to answer. Or I go momentarily deaf, or deftly change the subject (heh heh). But now that I am on vacation, and unimpressed by what’s on television, I have had plenty of time to think about what my favorite films actually are…
So to everyone who has ever asked me what my favorite films are,
Chan is Missing is a sort of film noir set in 1980’s San Francisco, directed by SFSU alum Wayne Wang. Wang did community development work in SF Chinatown, and the film is a beautiful exploration of the neighborhood as both a physical, cultural, and political space. It’s a loose story structure (including improvisation with the actors) that follows two Chinese American cabbies who are searching for Mr. Chan, a man who promised them an independent taxi license in exchange for a large sum of money. When both disappear, the two cabbies scour SF Chinatown for some answers, and from there the mystery deepens…
Two Cars One Night is a 12 minute short that was made by a Maori director named Taika Waititi (sometimes credited as Taika Cohen), who developed this story from his own real life experience of waiting in cars for his parents while they drank at bars. Using non-professional actors from a Maori-language immersion school, Two Cars One Night is a sweet, funny parking lot love story that takes place between two bored children waiting for their parents. If this has managed to tickle your fancy, the entire film is actually available on YouTube!
The Exiles (by Kent Mackenzie) is a documentary/narrative hybrid film that was shot entirely with “shortends,” and represents a true collaboration between the director and his subjects. It follows a group of young Native people from the Southwest who are trying to make a home for themselves in 1950’s Los Angeles. I don’t think I can write a description that would do it justice, because it does so many amazing things visually and conceptually, but it is at the very least an inspiring example of cross-cultural film making. Yes, parts of it are a little slow, but it is a must-see.
Well, I finally did it! There you go! There’s my best answer!