BETTER LUCK TOMORROW: Here and back again
By Abraham Ferrer
I hadn’t done a #throwback in such a long time, but seeing how dropping bombs is a recurring theme today, I thought I’d drop a bomb of my own: back in early 2001, filmmaker Justin Lin and Linda Mabalot, our former Executive Director at Visual Communications, struck a modest deal to let VC serve as HQ for the independent feature he was working to get made. Soon, his cast members and crew were rolling in and out for casting sessions and pre-production meetings — it became like a posse coming up in here. And with it, we started getting acquainted with the folks who rolled in. Of course, we all knew Jason Tobin from his work some years back on Chris Chan Lee’s YELLOW. We all thought that his starring turn on Cliff Son’s HELIUM would be his big break, but that movie died somewhere in the middle of the back-stretch. I remember Roger Fan from a couple of sweet indie shorts that we showed when we were taking up permanent residency at the Directors Guild of America. I personally remember Karin Anna Cheung from when she was volunteering at the Film Festival, straight from Cal State Northridge and a budding photographer and folk guitarist while scraping for acting roles with small APA theatre companies around town. Parry Shen was a relative newcomer to VC, but already a veteran actors looking to break out. And John Cho, another YELLOW alumnus, was not too far removed from his first big break through the AMERICAN PIE franchise. The one who made the biggest impression on me, however, was Sung Kang, whom Linda personally took under her wings to encourage him to keep plugging away at acting, that better things were just around the corner if he just didn’t give up on the career.
It’s been over fifteen years since that crew rolled through VC. Fifteen years since we got our first look at the film at a test-screening at FotoKem just weeks after it received a coveted competition slots at the Sundance Film Festival. Fifteen years since its World Premiere served to jump-start the APA Filmmakers Experience in Park City, a Sundance tradition that we’ve been keeping up since that first crazy party at China Panda, with the 17-course down-home Chinese buffet for nearly 300 guests. Fifteen years since its fourth competition screening in the crowded Park City Library Theatre, where Jason declared from the stage that he was going to kill a white journalist who dared to denigrate their film as morally bankrupt and not at all representative of Asian Pacific Americans (this part was actually a lot more fun to recall than the noble-as-shit defense by uber-critic Roger Ebert). BTW, I think at that time, Jason WAS gonna kill that journalist, and drag his limp carcass up and down Main Street. Just saying…
I know what people are saying — why are you opening the Los Angeles Asian Pacific Film Festival with a film that’s fifteen years old? Why aren’t you opening up with a premiere? I feel you, I really do. But now, shut the fuck up a minute and let me explain to you why: besides the opportunity to present the rarely-screened “I Got Away With Murder, Your Gurl, and Your Trust-Fund, Bitch!” version that only played for six screenings in Park City in January 2002 (update: purportedly the ONLY such print in existence); besides catching up with what all those actors have been up to in the intervening years; besides celebrating Justin’s ongoing career — the screening of their film, in pristine 35mm celluloid FILM, gives us all a badly-needed opportunity to check our collective pulse; to convince ourselves that no matter what happens to Asian Pacific Americans in this age of a more cynical, selfish, and uncertain “New Normal” that we can never be as mean-spirited and callous as Ben, Virgil, Daric and Han; and that we can celebrate a true diversity of vision, voice, and perspective and accept it ALL as part of a larger ever-evolving pan-Asian Pacific American reality. I hope you drop a couple of Jacksons on an Opening Night ticket and join us all. It’ll be soulful. It’ll be poignant. And it’ll give us all a chance to check our internal compass. We got one direction to go. And it CANNOT be backwards.
By the way: the name of that movie is BETTER LUCK TOMORROW. We’re dropping it on Thursday, April 27. And if you go to this link and score a ticket, we swear we won’t bite. We can’t promise that Jason will be on his best behavior. You’ll just have to take your chances. In the meantime, study hard, and we’ll meet you at the Ferris wheel…
Abraham Ferrer is the Exhibitions Director at Visual Communications and helps produce the annual LA Asian Pacific Film Festival. He has been with the organization since 1985.