Those Asians

8월 26, 2011 at 2:52 오전 ,
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‘Those Asians’ is a documentary (2007, 52min., DV color) that aims to address the question of the “bamboo ceiling,” or the ways in which Confucian ideals can make it difficult to succeed in Western culture. Rudy Lee, who wrote, directed, and produced the project as a 20-year old, was sponsored by various centers and initiatives at Princeton University where he was a sophomore at the time.

The film premiered at the university upon its completion in 2007 and was speakers like Y.S. Chi, a trustee of Princeton University, commended the film for its observations of the curious interplay of Asian and American cultures affecting Asian-American children’s upbringing. “We encourage at home for them to be much more outspoken and for them to challenge authority,” he said. “But sometimes, for our children, that can be very, very confusing, because sometimes I expect them to be traditional Korean: docile.”
Lee, who began making films in high school but had not done a documentary before, was inspired to spearhead “Those Asians” after reading the book “Breaking the Bamboo Ceiling” by Jane Hyun. In the course of making the film, Lee questioned an assortment of Asian and non-Asian students about their impressions of Asians. Lee aimed to use the students’ responses — which ranged from dubbing Asians “hardworking” to acknowledging that they could not imagine Asian CEOs — to mine the roots of stereotypes.

Interspersing interviews with Asian students and professionals, population figures and movie clips from films such as “Back to the Future,” Lee painted a world where cultural norms interfere with job success.

He noted statistics that, on the surface, would seem to reflect well on Asians’ success in America: 44 percent of Asian-Americans have college degrees, compared to 27 percent of the general population, while in Silicon Valley, 30 percent of entry-level positions are filled by Asian-Americans. But, he added, Asian-Americans account for only 12.5 percent of midand upper-level workers, while out of 10,000 upper level positions in Fortune 500 companies, only 30 are filled by Asian-American women.

In an interview included in the film, Hyun attributed these statistics, in part, to Asian cultural values. “[Asian-Americans] automatically give respect to those in authority,” she said. “[An Asian-American] person will be less likely to, in a meeting, throw out a question that’s a counterpoint.”

Several people interviewed in the film said that in many cases, Asian professionals struggle to assert themselves in the workplace. For example, a businessman said he finds that once Asian workers prove themselves to be capable, their colleagues often assume that they handle all the work.

“It also has to do with being a ‘model minority,’ ” Lee said. “People expect you to be good and not cause a lot of trouble.”

Some audience members questioned whether Asian-Americans who adapt to the traditional American business atmosphere become “bananas,” referring to the notion that they are “yellow on the outside, white on the inside.” Other participants in the discussion countered that the bamboo ceiling reflects an assimilation process that is common to all immigrant groups.

The film concluded by noting that Asian-Americans are expected to constitute eight percent of the American population by the year 2050 — twice the current statistic of four percent — and questioning how this growth would affect the Asian-American experience in the future.

Filmmaker Rudy Lee
Rudy Lee is an independent filmmaker now based in Seoul. Rudy split his youth between the U.S. and Korea, and studied French at the Daewon Foreign Language High School in Seoul. Rudy majored in Comparative Literature at Princeton with a minor in Visual Arts (film), and has also studied at the Université de Paris III – Sorbonne Nouvelle.

In recent years his studies and work have sent him to France and Italy. His last stint in Europe was in 2009, when he worked in Rome editing documentary clips about Roman architecture.

To date Rudy has completed a feature-length film, three shorts, and a documentary, which have been shown at various film festivals and venues. His most recent work was the 7-minute short film “Answers and Questions,” which centers around a lesbian actress.

Some of his work can be viewed at www.vimeo.com/rudyleefilms

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