Better Luck Tomorrow
Directed by Justin Lin
OPENING NIGHT FILM | SPECIAL RARE SUNDANCE CUT!
Come celebrate the 15th anniversary of BLT (co-presented by YOMYOMF)! The film premiered at Sundance amid controversy and is a benchmark for APA cinema. The Festival is screening the original Sundance cut, in glorious 35mm film. Director Justin Lin and cast in attendance!
Here we go again! A full fifteen years since its electrifying debut at the 2002 Sundance Film Festival, Justin Lin’s sophomore feature directorial effort BETTER LUCK TOMORROW gets the Opening Night “rewind” at Festival Week 33. Inspired loosely on horrifically true events, the exploits of high-school overachiever Ben Manibog (Parry Shen) and buddies Virgil Hu (Jason Tobin), Daric Loo (Roger Fan), and Han Lu (Sung Kang) have passed into canonical status, standing in stark contrast to the comparatively genteel portrayals (betrayals?) of Asian Pacific American male archetypes that persists today. That’s not the only reason why we’re bringing the film back. As noted directly and obliquely throughout this year’s program line-up, the America of BETTER LUCK TOMORROW is far different than the one we are living in today. BLT, as it is affectionately known, crashed onto the Sundance Film Festival a mere four months following the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorists attacks and figuratively shocked the shit out of Park City audiences looking for life-affirming programming fare. In the fifteen years since, creative forces led by a largely DIY generation of self-taught APA filmmakers have broadened the range of our communities’ creative output…and, some would say, voluntarily de-clawed themselves of anything resembling originality and incisive creative vision. In an age in which we experienced the first African American President and all the soaring achievements and disturbing back-slide into a racial and social quagmire that have gone along with it, it’s instructional to revisit BLT (in glorious 35mm, in its rarely-seen, “I Got Away With Murder” Director’s Cut) in a period that is arguably more cynical and divisive than when it first debuted.
The special presentation of BLT affords an opportunity to catch up with the wide-eyed men and women who created it. Director Lin’s career has, of course, been scrupulously documented (FAST & FURIOUS? STAR TREK? SCORPION? Uhh, Hello?!?), but a cursory look at how fame has touched the lead cast of the film is equally instructional. Parry Shen has continued his acting career, with lead roles in both studio and independent productions. Karin Anna Cheung (winsome and mysterious love interest Stephanie Van Der Gosh) has juggled acting and parenthood with stints as a folk musician and photographer. Jason Tobin (who broke out as a cast member of Chris Chan Lee’s seminal 1997 indie hit YELLOW, playing elsewhere in this year’s Festival) has similarly balanced acting and fatherhood in his native Hong Kong. The same is true of Roger Fan, who distinguished himself in Lin’s last indie feature, 2007’s FINISHING THE GAME. Sung Kang, who successfully imported his Han Lu persona to the FAST & FURIOUS franchise, expanded his visibility to include online web series ranging from vintage sports cars to guy-talk. And what of rich-boy Steve? The actor who portrayed him, John Cho, has likewise gone on to a celebrated career, in the HAROLD & KUMAR and STAR TREK franchises. Perhaps fittingly, the special Festival tribute sidebar #StarringJohnCho reflects what each of them aspire to — just a bit more clear-eyed than when they burst onto the scene fifteen years ago.
— Abraham Ferrer
Community Partner: YOMYOMF
Justin Lin burst onto the scene with his directorial debut BETTER LUCK TOMORROW. It was a seminal film in Asian American cinema, telling a story not seen before and launching the careers of many of its young actors. Justin went on to direct and produce the multimillion dollar Fast and Furious and Star Trek franchises. He continues to foster the next generation of Asian American storytellers through his YOMYOMF website.
Director: Justin Lin
Writers: Ernesto Foronda, Justin Lin, Fabian Marquez
Editor: Justin Lin
Preceded by: Better Luck Tomorrow