06 Oct Q&A WITH CHRIS CHAN LEE, DIRECTOR OF UNDOING
Chris Chan Lee returns to the film circuit with UNDOING, a film noir set in LA with an all-star cast.
LEE ANN KIM: It’s been almost 10 years since your groundbreaking feature, “Yellow,” about 8 Korean American kids getting into trouble in LA. Interestingly, UNDOING, is about a KA (Sung Kang) trying to get OUT of trouble in LA. Are there parallels between the two films?
CHRIS CHAN LEE: Both films focus on subjective perspectives that both drive and blind the main characters. Additionally, with YELLOW being a teen drama, and UNDOING a noir thriller- I wanted to explore two very American genres from an Asian American perspective.
KIM: You have inspired many Asian Americans to pursue filmmaking, and are considered by some a pioneer. What has your journey been like since “Yellow”, and how did that journey evolve to the creation of UNDOING?
LEE: I traveled and directed English-language television in Singapore, and worked on documentaries and television back in the states while assembling a team of collaborators and getting UNDOING off the ground. These experiences really exposed me to different sensibilities as far as theme and storytelling. And living abroad made me obsess more about perspective, environment, and identity.
KIM: I really like the quiet feel, the mood of this film. Why did you decide to go with the film noir genre?
LEE: I love noir films. Actually noir has permeated just about every kind of film out there these days. But I am compelled by it from the sense that fundamentally noir is so much about externalizing the internal human condition. It’s a rich vocabulary accompanied by a set of rules that either need to be adopted, broken, or challenged. The unspoken exchange is a key ingredient in my mind to our Asian upbringing, and as a director I believe a modern Asian American noir drama was the perfect platform to explore this idea of internal or non-verbal communication.
KIM: You gathered quite a cast – Russell Wong, Kelly Hu, Sung Kang, Bobby Lee, Leonardo Nam. What was it like working with them?
LEE: It was great to work with a core cast that already had a lot of experience, and brought unique perspectives to their roles. With that experience comes confidence and the ability to create choices, so that greatly benefited the film, not the mention the shooting schedule.
KIM: Your thoughts on today’s Asian American filmmakers and the state of Asian American cinema?
LEE: There is an ever growing number of voices and that diversity is beingreflected in the films. It’s an exciting time.
Lee Ann is the founder and former Executive Director of Pacific Arts Movement and the San Diego Asian Film Festival.