MANAA Asserts Offensive Use of Yellowface Make-Up and Exclusion of Asian Actors In The Film “Cloud Atlas”

LOS ANGELES – The Media Action Network for Asian Americans (MANAA) is criticizing the new Warner Brothers motion picture “Cloud Atlas”—promoted as artistically groundbreaking because its actors swap racial and sexual identities—as business-as-usual in its exclusion and offensive yellow-faced renditions of Asian people. A multi-ethnic epic spanning 500 years and around the globe, “it’s an artistically ambitious approach to filmmaking,” according to the organization’s Founding President Guy Aoki. “Unfortunately, it reflects the same old racial pecking order that the entertainment industry has been practicing for decades.”

“Cloud Atlas,” written and directed by Tom Tykwer (“Run, Lola, Run”) and Lana and Andy Wachowski (“The Matrix” trilogy) and based on the novel by David Mitchell, utilizes an all-star cast that includes Tom Hanks, Halle Berry, Jim Broadbent, Jim Sturgess, and Hugo Weaving. In order to stress a thematic continuity among the movie’s six different interwoven stories, the filmmakers cast many of the same actors as different characters in each time period. One of the stories takes place in a totalitarian, mechanized Neo Seoul Korea in the year 2144. An Asian female clone (South Korean actress Doona Bae) is encouraged by another female clone (Chinese movie star Xun Zhou) to break out of her oppressive pre-programmed routine to serve men and become an independent thinker. The segment also includes White actors Sturgess, Weaving, and James D’Arcy as ostensibly Korean characters, using eye prosthetics to make their Caucasian features look more Asian.

“’Cloud Atlas’ prides itself on its ‘multi-racial cast,’” said Aoki, “but that basically means White men and women of color, like La Jolla Playhouse’s ‘The Nightingale,’ which was criticized last Summer for using only two Asian American actresses but allowing five White men to play Chinese characters. Aoki said, “’Cloud Atlas missed a great opportunity. The Korea story’s protagonist is an Asian man–an action hero who defies the odds and holds off armies of attackers. He’s the one who liberates Doona Bae from her repressive life and encourages her to join the resistance against the government. It would have been a great, stereotype-busting role for an Asian American actor to play, as Asian American men aren’t allowed to be dynamic or heroic very often.

“But instead, they cast Jim Sturgess in yellowface,” Aoki continued, referring to the historically frowned-upon practice of using cosmetics, such as eye prosthetics, to make Caucasian actors look Asian. “In fact, every major male character in the Korea story is played by non-Asian actors in really bad yellowface make-up. When you first see Hugo Weaving as a Korean executioner, there’s this big close-up of him in this totally unconvincing Asian make-up. The Asian Americans at the pre-screening burst out laughing because he looked terrible–like a Vulcan on ‘Star Trek.’ It took us out of the movie. And Jim Sturgess and James D’Arcy didn’t look much better.”

RepresentAsian: The Changing Face of New York Theater

ASIAN AMERICAN PERFORMERS ACTION COALITION (AAPAC) will hold an industry roundtable with prominent producers, artistic directors, directors, playwrights, agents, and casting directors to have a dialogue on access and representation of minority actors on NYC stages and how best to overcome obstacles to more inclusive casting. It will be co-presented with Fordham University and will

Asian Pacific American Media Coalition’s Annual Television Report Card – 2012

LOS ANGELES – In the 12 years the Asian Pacific American Media Coalition (APAMC) has issued report cards grading the top four television networks on their efforts to include Asian Pacific Americans in their programming and business dealings, no company has received an F—until now. Fox failed to provide the data the APAMC has consistently requested and which the other networks—ABC, CBS, and NBC—have delivered for over a decade. As a result, for the 2011-2012 season, the Coalition had no choice but to give the network a grade of F/Incomplete–the worst grade ever given to any network in the history of the report cards. APAMC Co-Chair Marilyn Tokuda remarked, “This is especially disappointing because Fox had some very positive stories to tell about its diversity initiatives under its new Audience Strategies department.” Added co-chair Guy Aoki, “We require each network to provide the same information every year on a timely basis so we can evaluate them fairly and evenly compared to other networks and to their own past performance. Since Fox did not give us the necessary data, we cannot give them any credit.”

Ironically, the only network to meet the coalition’s challenge from last year to cast at least one Asian Pacific American actor as the main star of a TV show by Fall 2014 was Fox. “The Mindy Project,” created by and starring Indian American actress Mindy Kaling, began airing in September. It emerged from a diverse writers initiative at NBC and is produced by Universal Television, the television studio/production unit affiliated with NBC. The Coalition looks forward to seeing if “The Mindy Project” will flesh out the lead character’s background and provide viewers the opportunity to see her family and learn more about her heritage. “The APAMC began meeting with the major television networks in late 1999 and early 2000 to press for greater diversity for severely underrepresented Asian Pacific Americans (APAs),” said co-chairs Guy Aoki and Marilyn Tokuda in a Coalition statement. “Since then, there have been incremental increases in the number of APA actors, writers, producers, directors and network executives at all four of the networks. But in the 2011-2012 season, the numbers have somewhat stagnated,” they said.

Meet Frances Kakugawa at the Japanese American National Museum

Mark your calendars (September 29 @ Japanese American National Museum) to attend two events MANAA is sponsoring for award-winning author/poet Frances Kakugawa (who’s written past books on caregiving for those with Alzheimer’s) and her humorous and sobering book Kapoho: Memoirs of a Modern Pompeii about growing up in the small town in Hawaii (later covered

General Meeting – August 16, 2012

Please join us in discussing how to improve media depictions of Asian Americans. Agenda items include: Warner Brothers’ upcoming film Cloud Atlas featuring yellowface, whiteface, and blackface! MANAA’s involvement in educating the La Jolla Playhouse on their white-washed production of The Nightingale. Asian Pacific American Media Coalition’s Quarterly meeting with NBC. Upcoming remake of Red