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…
“On the Lot,” Fox’s reality show about 50 directors (chosen from 12,000 submissions), aired its finale on August 21, 2007 with Will Bigham named the winner of the $1 million development deal with Dreamworks Pictures. The series faced many problems, including an ever-dwindling audience that sunk to less than two million viewers (the finale got the attention of 2.5 million), the firing of Chelsea Handler as original host, and the hiring of greenhorn live host Adrianna Costa. The main interest of “On the Lot” to MANAA supporters, though, was the participation of Shalini Kantayya, a 30 year old director originally from Connecticut who’s lived in Brooklyn for the past 10 years.
The Indian American won MANAA’s 2004 scholarship and demonstrated her commitment to the cause week after week, finishing in the Top 10. Guy Aoki, a MANAA Board Member and the group’s founding president, interviewed Ms. Kantayya by phone. The following interview previously ran in an abridged version of Aoki’s “Into the Next Stage” column in the Rafu Shimpo newspaper.
Guy Aoki: Well, first of all, we’re so proud of what you’ve done.
Shalini Kantayya: Oh thank you!
GA: I mean, what’s really terrific is that you used at least one Asian person in every one of your films (SK laughs). And you know, that’s so refreshing because I often hear Asian American writers say, “Well, I’m gonna have to wait ’till I make it [to help Asian Americans].” They get onto the writing staff of a TV show, and they’re still very self-conscious about being Asian American. I understand that: If there’s like only one Asian in the whole writing room and everyone else is white, then they don’t want to be an advocate right off the bat. They want to just kind of fit in and show that they’re like a team player.
SK: Very understandable.
GA: And then you wait and wait and wait and you wonder, “Well, are they going to remember when they make it, or are they just going to get so used to doing white stories and casting white people that they’re gonna forget about it by the time they, quote, ‘make it?'” So I was so happy that every one of your films featured an Asian person, and it didn’t take away from the piece, and it was part of the success! Was it [intentional?]
SK: Well, we had a pool of actors to work from so you’re pretty restricted. Do I have a commitment to diversify? Absolutely. But I think more than that… I never want to be held back or boxed in as an Asian American filmmaker. I hope that if I’m asked to make a film about Latino gangs, I’ll be able to do it, or white American suburban life that I’ll be able to do it. But I think as my voice grows as a filmmaker, we make films about things that we know about. And I happen to know, for instance, the script for “Doctor-In-Law” was great. That script could’ve been about any immigrant community. It could’ve been Czechoslovakian people, could’ve been any first generation family, but I think those kinds of immigrant stories are very close to my heart and Doctor-In Law, I think, was a script asking for me to direct it.
Rep Coble, on a radio show talk show on February 4th, condoned the internment of Japanese Americans. His so called apology followed, but he doesn’t say he was wrong.
The following comes from Ken Narasaki and I’ve been following it in the Rafu Shimpo. Remember when Trent Lott made those veiled comments supporting segregation? He went all over the place making apologies and said he would not resign his seat as Senate Majority Leader.
OK, here’s a great example of the black test: Rep Coble, on a radio show talk show on February 4th, condoned the internment of Japanese Americans. His so called apology followed, but he doesn’t say he was wrong.
I’m super steamed now because in the Rafu I just got tonight, Sam Chu Lin (our reporter friend) interviewed Rep. Mike Honda who called Cole and tried talking sense into him. Cole informed him that he was the one in charge of opposing the redress bill in ’87! Honda, Reps Robert Matsui and David Wu wrote a letter on Friday asking for a meeting with Cole. Matsui also called Cole.
Cole just responded saying he didn’t have time!
The audacity of this sonuvabitch! Karen Narasaki and John Tateishi, our friend at the JACL, have called for his resignation as head of the committee that decides treatment of Arab Americans vis a vis terrorism.
It was like preparing for an oral exam where you were gonna go in front of professors deciding whether or not you knew what you were talking about. Only this time, they’d challenge you if they disagreed and wouldn’t feel obliged to let you finish your sentences. Oh, and it would be broadcast to millions of people across the country.
Well, Aoki, you always said you wanted to educate America to the Asian American perspective. Yeah, but with David Spade probably making wise-ass remarks in between your attempts to make serious points? With a host- Bill Maher- openly hostile to your cause? And against a comedian- Sarah Silverman- who hates your guts?