Malaysian filmmaker Adele Lim asserts that Hollywood's evolving landscape is now presenting more opportunities for Asian filmmakers.
Hollywood's changing dynamics: Speaking at the Taiwan Creative Culture Fest on Wednesday, the "Joy Ride" director highlighted her initial sense of disadvantage as an Asian screenwriter in Hollywood. She discussed the scarcity of Asian voices in the industry, recalling Hollywood's past reluctance to depict Asians as protagonists.
New avenues for Asian stories: With the rise of successful Asian-centric films and series like "Squid Game" and "Parasite," Lim noted that Hollywood is increasingly open to diverse narratives. She pointed out that streaming platforms have played a pivotal role in leveling the playing field, allowing Asian stories to gain global traction.
“We’re at this interesting inflection point in our industry where it’s not about one or two major world cultures dictating entertainment for the rest of us – we have these troves of untapped stories, that have the potential to really have a lot of cross-cultural appeal. That’s something Hollywood is trying to crack and for a lot of us it’s a unique opportunity to be able to come up with these stories that are not locked in by having to shoot in the States or only tell stories from one point of view – we can really start to blow it wide open.”
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Shaping cultural narratives: Lim, who wrote the script for "Crazy Rich Asians," also touched on the structural adjustments made to adapt Kevin Kwan's bestselling novel into a film. She discussed the addition of scenes like the ones that featured dumpling making and mahjong, emphasizing the need to translate the book's dialogue-heavy content into visually engaging cinematic moments.
Navigating challenges: Talking about the challenges she faced while working on the film, she recounted a moment when a U.S. film executive sought to eliminate a crucial opening scene. In arguing to keep the scene, Lim asserted the importance of portraying rich Asian characters with depth to make their struggles universally relatable.
“I had to fight for that opening because it has everything to do with the main story – it sets the tone as a young Nick (played by Henry Golding as an adult) gets to see his mother practicing her power identity in a foreign country… It came from a place of wanting to show the world that we are people to be taken seriously. It’s easy to dismiss rich characters, why do we need to care for them, but it’s not just about people who have a ton of money and are acting in outlandish ways. The things that move these characters are the same things that move any of us.”
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