Hollywood is making great strides toward increasing Asian representation in film and television, but the work doesn’t stop there. The next generation of Asian American actresses and filmmakers are striving to keep the momentum going.
“Growing up, I didn’t see a lot of Asian faces on TV and film,” singer-songwriter Jane Lui told KTLA. “And at this moment now, it’s actually flipping a certain narrative in my head.“
Lui was the voice of Opera Evelyn in the Oscar-winning film, “Everything, Everywhere All at Once,” which took home seven Academy Awards this year, including Best Picture. Michelle Yeoh also became the first Best Actress winner of Asian descent.
Asian representation in film and television increased in 2022 from the year before, according to the Entertainment Diversity Progress Report by Luminate. Still, of all movies released in 2022, less than 2% centered on Asian stories.
“I do believe it’s important to tell specific stories … Filipina, Cambodian, Chinese. Everybody deserves a place around the table,” says Cambodian French actress Elodie Yung, who stars in the Fox series, “The Cleaning Lady.” Her character, Thony, is also of Cambodian descent.
“I think it’s important when they switch on the TV or go to watch a movie in cinemas, I want them to feel connected to what they’re watching, whether they find their own culture in what they’re watching, or they find a piece of humanity and relate to any character’s color as well.”
Filmmaker Caylee So has been pushing toward that goal. She co-founded the Cambodian Town Film Festival with Prach Ly in 2013.
“There wasn’t very much representation of Cambodians in film and cinema at that time, so there was nothing to look at as a reference,” says So. “The growth of films by Cambodians increased exponentially in the last decade. You can see it.”
That progress is leading to even more optimism.
“We’re doing funny movies instead of just Kung Fu movies,” says Lui. “We are leading men and women, and we are headliners on tours.”