CAN | 3 minutes | 2019
Narrative short film by Jimmy Vi
Starring Younghyun Choi, Cherene Francis
Through the teachings of Malcolm X, a young Asian-American college student journeys from self-hate toward self-love.
CineAsian Films (CAF): What a beautiful, prose-like film about self-love and the damaging effects media can have on how we view ourselves. What made you want to explore this topic that so deeply affects the Asian diaspora?
Jimmy Vi: Living in Toronto I was very fortunate to grow up in a very diverse area. I went to school in places where cultures mingling felt normal. My best friends were from all sorts of different backgrounds. I had a project where we were location scouting areas of Canada where black slavery was found. These neighbourhoods today were primarily white and it wasn’t until I visited these neighbourhoods I truly felt the difference in being a POC and being white. This was further and further felt the deeper I got into the advertising and film industry. Often times I’m in spaces as the only POC in a room full of white males.This lead me to reflecting on myself, my culture and my skin.
I faced a lot of discrimination, racism and stereotyping in the past few years. I realized that a lot of what others perceive of our identity comes from our skin colour. People immediately place stereotypes on us what they understood and learned from the media they consume. I felt the need to participate in this conversation to shift the perception of “Yellow.” The writer and I wanted to address these topics. We wanted to pay homage to what has already happened in the fight against racism but respect our cultures. To show that even in this oppressive world there is love. A sort of love that will transcend backgrounds, cultures and skin colour.
CAF: Malcolm has a very specific colour palette and look to it, specifically emphasizing the colour yellow. How was this achieved through cinematography and post-production work?
Vi: The use of the colour yellow was very intentional. It was used to represent a warm feeling and our skin tone. Although cinematography and post-production was involved it was primarily done through the art direction (set design/wardrobe). We choose to style everything in warm tones with some cool tones to balance and contrast.
Working with our VFX artist Yellow painted the eyes of the portraits in the first few seconds of the piece. The yellow paint covering our eyes represented what we felt like in these situations. Where people saw us and immediately thought of us as “yellow” instead of Jimmy, Jack, or Angela. The scene of the TV represented the idea of “yellow” breaking the image of what we know as yellow on mainstream media.
Each scene had a warm golden feeling to it done through the lighting. We wanted it to feel nostalgic like a distant memory and a sense of warmth the characters felt in their moment of love.
CAF: A lot of film and TV productions claim that there aren’t enough Asian actors to cast in parts meant for Asians. What was the casting process like for this film in your search for (thankfully) so many Asian actors?
Vi: I believe the casting process here is a lot different than it is in America. We have large Asian communities here. We went through our usual casting routes and our options were slim in comparison to casting for white talent. But thankfully it wasn’t as hard as I had imagined. Jerome the kid in the piece was an instant yes for us the moment he came in there was a gentleness to him that felt right. With our other talents we felt the same too. We reached out to our local communities as well. The portraits in the beginning we actually casted our friends and local Asian communities as well as the crew (even our DP is in there).
CAF: Are you working on anything at the moment?
Vi: Currently I’m working on an editorial film for my partner’s jewelry collection (Softandsticky.com). My main source of income is commercials so my other focus right now is to bring more representation and diverse stories in these spaces. I hope to work with large brands that everyday consumers encounter and to normalize POC in these advertisements. With my work I hope to do what this film hoped to do which was to break and speak about representation in mainstream media.
Malcolm is one of the many great projects shared with CineAsian Films through our submissions process. If you’d like to join them, submit your film.