It was the film that turned the tide definitively, for Asian representation in Hollywood, and arguably, for the first time, broke the simmering debate of Asian representation wide open. But Crazy Rich Asians just was the cherry on top of a golden year for Asians on film.
It Started with Crazy Rich Asians
The film explores the upper-class society of Singaporean Chinese, and for the first time in film-making history, featured an all-Asian cast.
Crazy Rich Asians’ lead actress Constance Wu’s nomination made history as the first Asian woman in over 50 years to be nominated in the category of lead actress in a musical or comedy.
The film has been widely recognised as breaking the colour barrier for Asians, and ‘a catalyst for more diversity in Hollywood’.
It wasn’t just Wu’s nomination that dominated headlines.
Asian-American actress Sandra Oh made history as the first Asian woman to be nominated for an Emmy as a lead actress in a drama.
But it was actor Aziz Ansari that really took home the trophy, becoming the first Asian American male actor to win a Golden Globe for his lead role in TV comedy, Master of None.
Even better, he’s now the first Asian American actor to win a Golden Globe in over a decade.
Before him, only four Asian actors in the Globes’ 75 year history have won:
- Yoko Shimada, Best Actress in a Television Series Drama in 1980 for Shōgun.
- Sandra Oh, Best Supporting Actress in a Series, Miniseries, or Motion Picture for TV for Grey’s Anatomy in 2006.
- Haing Somnang Ngor, Best Supporting Actor in a Motion Picture in 1984 for The Killing Fields.
- Ben Kingsley, two Golden Globes in 1983 for his performance in Gandhi – Best New Actor and Best Actor in a Drama Motion Picture.
Future of Representation
Well, keen film observers say it doesn’t stop there for Asian representation.
Already, another recently released film, Searching has received great critical acclaim and popular support for being the first mainstream Hollywood thriller to feature an Asian-American lead.
The lead actor, played by John Cho, is searching for his missing daughter. The entire cast of the fictitious family is also played by Korean-American actors. There’s Joseph Lee as the brother, Sara Sohn as the wife, and Michelle La as the missing daughter.
Aside from casting, the film opens with authentic Korean elements in a strong effort to acknowledge his roots.
Searching also was a huge hit overseas, making almost as much at the Korean box office as it did at the American one.
Korean news agencies praised the film as the ‘future of Asian-representation in world cinema’.
So which Asian films have you caught this year?