Friday, November 30, 2007

Commentary | "American Sons" (1995)

“Racism made me—the way I look, the way I walk, the way I talk.”

The varying experiences of the Asian American men interviewed in American Sons allowed the filmmaker, Steven Okazaki, to show that despite our experiences as Asian American individuals, who we are as Asian Americans is in fact a response to racism. This idea takes inspiration from cultural nationalist thought which privileges race above other issues (such as feminism in Deborah Gee's Slaying the Dragon), and positions that being Asian American means existing in a constant state of fluidity that is in dialogue with and reacting to different cultural contexts.

This film exemplifies how Asian American men’s lives are often grounded in multiple sets of conflicting culture-specific meanings and practices; competing identities which only make it more difficult to construct individual subjectivity. These performances powerfully presented how this struggle can dangerously lead to anger, but the film does a good job to show how anger can be both justified and rectifiable as well. In the end, the filmmaker suggests that the only way to mediate between those competing identities is to pursue an individual path; one that defies others’ expectations not just for the sake of it, but to the end that it satisfies the individual as well.

Company Credits (via
Production Company / Farallon Films
Distributor / Center for Asian American Media

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