Guest Post by Andrew Ahn
I was confused for Daniel Kwan five times at Sundance. Yes, we both made features that were premiering at the Sundance Film Festival. Yes, we are both Asian. And yes, we both have facial hair. But no, I am not Daniel Kwan of the Daniels, the writing and directing duo behind Swiss Army Man. I am Andrew Ahn, writer and director of Spa Night.
People would congratulate me on Swiss Army Man. They would ask me what it was like to work with Daniel Radcliffe. Fortunately, I think Daniel Kwan is a good looking guy, so I'm flattered as much as I am offended. However, more importantly, it's a good sign for Asian American film that there was another filmmaker at Sundance that I could be mistaken for. In fact, there were five Asian American writer directors with films within the festival's US Dramatic Competition: Meera Menon (Equity), Jason Lew (The Free World), Soyoung Kim (Lovesong), Daniel Kwan (Swiss Army Man), and myself. This is an impressive and surprisingly under-publicized statistic. At Sundance last year, Benson Lee's Seoul Searching and Jennifer Phang's Advantageous screened; at SXSW, Daniel Park's Ktown Cowboys.
The media has focused on the lack of Asian American representation in film, both in front and behind the camera. This type of reporting is important; it's galvanizing. However, it does not support, celebrate, or promote the work that is already being made. Just this summer, there are three Asian American films that have or will have opened in theaters: Seoul Searching, Ray Yeung's Front Cover, and my film Spa Night. This is encouraging, a strong indicator of our progress. However, more has been written about The Great Wall, Ghost in the Shell, and Doctor Strange than these films. This is unfortunate and a true missed opportunity, because our heroes don't look like Matt Damon. Our heroes look like Justin Chon, Rosalina Lee, Jake Choi, and Joe Seo.