If you saw my mini-review for Incredibles 2 on Facebook, you’ll know I’m semi-obsessed with the short film that accompanied Pixar’s latest gem: Bao. Directed by an Asian woman (Domee Shi), this touching portrayal of a mother-son relationship is hilarious, adorable, and shocking all in the span of eight minutes. I really want to see more from Shi…come to think about it, I want to see more from any Asian director. If you think women in film have a hard time finding work, it’s even worse for people who look like me. A 2017 USC study found that the percentage of Asian directors remained nearly unchanged in the previous ten years. Obviously, something needs to change, so I will use this opportunity to shine a light on several movies or TV shows coming soon that are helmed by such people. I may not share the same enthusiasm for all of them, but I think it’s important to shine a light on individuals who aren’t given as much attention.
Jennifer Yuh Nelson: The Darkest Minds (August 3, 2018)
Yuh has primarily made her mark in the world of animation, starting out as the head of story on Kung Fu Panda before switching over to direct its two sequels. While I think the original is still the best, Yuh made history as “the first woman to solely direct an animated feature from a major Hollywood studio” (LA Times). That’s no small feat. Soon, she will make her live-action debut with The Darkest Minds, based on another popular YA novel about kids with special abilities (no, they’re not mutants). Judging from the trailer, there are some interesting visuals, not to mention solid supporting actors like Gwendoline Christie and Bradley Whitford. Sadly, this looks too much like Divergent for me; it could be good given Yuh’s track record, but I think the YA trend has come and gone.
Jon M. Chu: Crazy Rich Asians (August 15, 2018)
You don’t understand how insanely excited I am for this film, despite the fact that Chu has never directed anything good (his last? Now You See Me 2). I don’t remember the last time a movie could even boast an all-Asian cast, headlined by the queen herself Constance Wu and featuring other heavy hitters like Michelle Yeoh and Ken Jeong. Similar to how I imagine African-Americans felt about Black Panther, I’m going all in on Crazy Rich Asians, even buying the book on which it’s based. Please don’t let me down.
James Wan: Aquaman (December 21, 2018)
Why haven’t we seen a trailer yet? Only six months to go and all we have are set photos. I can understand the reasoning behind the long wait though; since Aquaman is no one’s favorite comic book character and his introduction in Justice League was very underwhelming, the first trailer needs to be flawless to effectively sell the movie. Therefore, I’ll reserve final judgment until then, but given the state of the DCEU, I’m not holding my breath (totally unintentional pun).
Ang Lee: Gemini Man (October 4, 2019)
Hey, he went to my alma mater! The two-time Oscar-winning director is back and this time he’s assembled a stellar cast consisting of Will Smith, Clive Owen, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, and Benedict Wong. Reading the initial plot synopsis on Wikipedia already intrigues me: “Henry Brogen, an aging assassin seeking to exit his career, finds himself going against a younger clone of himself who can predict his every move.” We’re over a year away, but sign me up; Ang Lee may not always make the best films, but they’re usually visually striking with complex emotional stories.
Cary Fukunaga: Maniac (Netflix, TBA)
Before we go any further, you need to check out Beasts of No Nation on the streaming platform. Featuring a standout performance from Idris Elba, the film pulls no punches by examining the life of a child soldier. Fukunaga pulled quadruple duty as director, producer, writer, and cinematographer, showing off his full range of talent. What makes me excited for Maniac are two names: Emma Stone and Jonah Hill (a Superbad reunion). It has been described as a dark comedy “about a guy who lives a fantasy life in his dreams, but in reality, is locked up at an institution” (Variety) with the two leads playing patients in said institution. Along with the Coen brothers’ upcoming Western anthology series, Netflix has made some great acquisitions lately that I can’t wait to check out.
Cathy Yan: Dead Pigs (January 19, 2018)
Technically, this film already premiered at Sundance, but I’ve yet to hear anything regarding a wide release. It may not actually make its way into theaters though, which is a real shame because I was looking forward to checking it out. Yan was inspired to make the film “after reading a news story about 16,000 dead pigs mysteriously floating down the Huangpu River, which she found a compelling metaphor.” Described as a dark comedy and starring Zazie Beetz (who you probably know from either Atlanta or Deadpool 2), I hope some theater near me picks it up. In addition, Yan was recently chosen to direct the planned DCEU film Birds of Prey, which would feature Harley Quinn and other heroines/villains from the comics like Batgirl and Catwoman. If this movie actually happens (and knowing Warner Bros, that’s a huge “if”), Yan would be the first Asian woman to EVER direct a superhero film.