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Christopher Wong is a California-based filmmaker who established himself by working on projects that range from independents, to shorts, to commercials. But it wasn't until Whatever It Takes that he hit it big.



Whatever It Takes follows Principal Edward Tom, who abandoned the steel and concrete of Fifth Avenue to instead monitor the hallways of the Bronx Center for Science and Mathematics. The school, which boasts only 107 students, is a place that Tom considers to be "a safe haven, amidst the violence and poverty of the south Bronx, where children can focus on a rigorous and meaningful education."

The film is co-produced by Renee Tajima-Pena (of Who Killed Vincent Chin? directing fame), and has received major funding from the Center for Asian American Media as well as the Sundance Institute. This is serious business for an Asian American film, centered around an Asian American man and the tumultuous environment in which he lives. Justin Lin's Better Luck Tomorrow, in comparison, didn't make big waves. I spoke to Chris just after the San Francisco International Asian American Film Festival, and he said that the reception was amazing.

During the Women Who Work It! panel, Fay Ann Lee said that the biggest problem with "Asian American" films is that it doesn't garner an audience (not in the way that Tyler Perry garners an African American audience, anyway). This makes me critique the way that I've been categorizing Chris's film since I first heard about it. Unlike Falling For Grace or Better Luck Tomorrow, Whatever It Takes is not just a chick flick, or a teenage angst film, that happens to feature Asian American players. It is a documentary that details something which looks to us like a more believable slice of reality, one which lays out issues of race, class and education, and asks the audience to piece something out of it. The film presents race as a mere node in a web of problems that have led to society's twisted failings.

Anyway, I haven't even seen the film yet, and this leaves out a lot of other AsAm documentaries that have a lot to offer to the so-called Asian American genre. I'll wait for it to hit the East Coast for Asian Cinevision's Asian American International Film Festival; until then, someone who has actually seen it (and therefore has a cohesive idea), please enlighten.

For more on Whatever It Takes, visit the film website.

9 comments:

  1. Nhu-Y said...

    oh wow! i've met principal tom and many amazing staff members at BCMS--i spoke to the junior class last year about college and scholarships. it's a great school.  

  2. Anonymous said...

    1st of all i wanna say wowww... please finish it...I know shariefa personally... She does go through alot n now she lost her mom so she's going through more. RIP Ms.Baskerville  

  3. Anonymous said...

    the movie is finished. I watched it. I heard shariefa lives with her grandma now  

  4. cccwong said...

    marilla, thanks for the love! it's amazing that you understand so deeply what the movie is about -- and you haven't even seen the whole film yet! i can't wait for you to watch the entire documentary in NYC, and i'll let you know as soon as i find out a screening date/time. until then, thanks for the great blog post about WHATEVER IT TAKES...  

  5. Anonymous said...

    i go to bcsm now.... i was a student in the freshman class.. i dont even see shariefa attending our school anymore and i have yet to see the documentary either... but the school has changed alot since 2005  

  6. Anonymous said...

    i currently go to the school but I wasn't around when the documentary was taking place. I find it interesting that a small school such as BCSM could get such attention and it is my wish that more documentaries could be done to the school.  

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  8. Yuridia said...

    This sounds like an amazing story to write about! Is the documentary out in NYC? Does anyone know?  

  9. Anonymous said...

    its a good school. i can say that . we try to succeed to a better future thats all.i wish the best for the graduationg clases.  


 

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