My Asian-Americans, indie cinema was never built for you. Literally, the entrepreneurs’ visions were never of Asian American throngs coming to an arthouse theater they were building to make a solid return on investment. Independence is a colonial illusion. That’s why they nickname it “indie” and not independent, a subtle move towards redefining a generic meaning, so that other hungry losers can claim to be real, when no one in the world outside of this small cadre really watches your shit. Arthouse cinema stardom is a mere flailing romantic pipe dream sold to us, for the price of a fucking $40 festival ticket.
I too loved indie arthouse cinema, except now it’s not as precious, when before there were only the select few who even knew how to shoot on film. The populist legions of insta-celebs, non-beholden to any critics other than fiat dollars validating them, and a ticker of views, a cultural race towards the bottom, a countdown, by fakers, not the makers who once understood the virtues and responsibilities of the medium. But the medium of film is dead. This is a new medium.
Justin Lin had done it, when movies were still films, when Ebert was still around. Except now, I realize indie arthouse cinema has almost nothing to do with me. Movies were powerful then, but are they powerful now? In WWII Germany, movies were propaganda to train people into sheep. If arthouse films are still supposed to be so powerful, what the fuck have they achieved in the recent age? How have they changed the world? Did Blue Is the Warmest Color” change the world? (No, and because it was shot in flat digital.) And am I, or someone like me, considered even as an afterthought in the 100 or so years of cinema canon and lexicon? Would it be me, an Asian American, defined and lumped together by ever-fickle, arbitrary categories, by people with limited education about the outside world, often being taught fear, in perpetual defense to make up for their vacuum of cultural identity, set up for re-feed? Asians Americans have plenty of films now, but they have little place in the grander scheme, because the medium is not built to sustain us. In fact, the film medium is already dead, in which I am hardly there to be found anyway. Shall I lament the death of something which really had nothing to do with me in the first place?
We need to build a new platform. Some did it on YouTube. Get even more creative than that now. Fucking build infinite platforms. Share that shit with other platforms, as long as they are creators, real humans, not mediators, who are becoming quickly obsolete anyway, replaced by more reliable machines. With artificial intelligence, we no longer need mediators, but we and the machines will always need the human spirit of creation, for an existential purpose.
Create a halfway-decent movie that is original, not confined by traditional or even counter-traditional markets. Awards, romance, being number one are all pseudo-milestones, distractions away from yourself… you, who is the only one to whom you have to truly prove yourself. And in that exercise, perhaps you will unlock the struggle that we all go through, the hardest challenge we face, that is universal.