2018 will prove to be a landmark year for minority representation on screen. We saw the enormous success of Black Panther and the subsequent discourse on what the film means for black representation in cinema, with Aneesh Chaganty’s Searching, actor John Cho became the first Asian-American actor in Hollywood to headline a mainstream thriller, and this past week saw three big stories that could be game-changing for Asian representation and colour-inclusive casting.
1. The Commercial Success Of Crazy Rich Asians
Director Jon. M Chu’s romantic comedy-drama based on Kevin Kwan’s novel of the same name follows a young Asian-American woman who travels to meet her boyfriend’s family, only to find out they are among the richest in Singapore. The film topped the US box office with a $34 million five-day opening. Crazy Rich Asians is the first Hollywood film in the past 25 years to feature an all-Asian cast.
Writing for Quartz, reporter Adam Epstein said, “Crazy Rich Asians is a resounding, unimpeachable victory for representation in Hollywood, one that will hopefully usher in an era of films by non-white filmmakers that tell the stories of non-white people. The film industry’s excuse that minority-led films don’t perform well financially has been exposed once again as the racist fraud it always was.”
2. Netflix’s To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before
Another movie that released this week, albeit digitally, was director Susan Johnson’s Netflix film To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before. The teen romance is based on American novelist Jenny Han’s 2014 novel of the same name and features Vietnamese-American actress Lana Condor in the lead role.
In a New York Times Op-ed, Han wrote about how she found it difficult to get producers on board because she wanted the retain the ethnicity of the main character. She said, “Even before the book came out in 2014, there was interest in making a movie. But the interest died as soon as I made it clear the lead had to be Asian-American. One producer said to me, as long as the actress captures the spirit of the character, age and race don’t matter. I said, well, her spirit is Asian-American. That was the end of that.”
The film has been well-received and along with Crazy Rich Asians, has once again sparked the debate around minority representation in Hollywood films.
3. Dev Patel’s casting in Dickens
Dev Patel, the actor known for films like Slumdog Millionaire and Lion, has been cast in a new film by Veep’s Armando Iannucci. The film, an adaptation of the 1850 Charles Dickens novel David Copperfield, will feature the London born actor of Indian origin in a role that has been traditionally portrayed by white actors.
In an article in The Guardian titled ‘Why Dev Patel in Dickens could change film for ever’, Cath Clarke analyses the flawed logic of literal casting and argues that “David Copperfield might be a blip, or perhaps we will look back and say it redefined the casting status quo in British film.”