Morales’ gripping thriller begins when a politician’s chauffeur’s car gets ambushed, and kidnappers targeting the politician’s daughter for ransom take the driver’s daughter instead.
One way to get an actor ready to play a devastated father willing to do anything to get his kidnapped daughter back is to deprive him of sleep.
Director Ron Morales’ second feature film Graceland was shot in the Philippines in a little over two weeks, and because of the time restraint, the cast and crew worked up to 22-hour days, often shooting at night and napping when the sun was up. Lead actor Arnold Reyes was in almost every scene.
“Every time the makeup artist put makeup on him, I’d tell him to wash his face and run around until he was all sweaty again,” Morales says, laughing.
High school: such a pivotal time in young women’s lives for college/career decisions, familial tension, first loves, first rejections, no-holds-barred attitude and unexpected self-discoveries.
by Ada Tseng
And when high school years are depicted on American film and television, extracurricular activities may involve solving murder mysteries (Pretty Little Liars), and unrequited love is sometimes best told through song (T.V. Carpio’s cover of “I Want to Hold Your Hand” in Across the Universe).
One could argue that Tamlyn Tomita’s Kumiko was the ultimate Asian American high school “girl-next-door” crush, even if, back in 1986, the Karate Kid had to travel all the way to Japan to be in the right neighborhood. But in the past 25 years, there have many memorable Asian American girls – as well as British Asians, Asian-Scots and Asian Canadians that we snuck onto the list — that we can look up to (or reminisce with) in these classic tales of high school.
We’ve all heard of the stories of undocumented immigrants who were brought to the US as babies — culturally American but legally not. But what happens if you’ve been in the US legally for decades, but still can’t obtain a green card to stay in your home country because of holes in the US immigration system that the government has no plans to fix?
In 2006, Ana La O’ — at the time an undergraduate at UCLA — wrote a cover story for the alternative weekly newspaper LA Citybeat titled “The Hidden Classes,” about the first wave of undocumented immigrants that could afford to attend California public colleges after 2001’s AB 540 law allowed them to pay in-state tuition rates. The students she interviewed had been brought over to the United States as kids and educated in the American school system, yet they were unable to work legally and in danger of being deported to countries they hadn’t lived in for 15 to 20 years.
“It was the first time that I had spoken to people who had the same kind of psychology that I did,” says La O’, who moved to the U.S. from the Philippines when she was 11 months old. “I totally understood everything about being culturally American, but not having the same rights, feeling in limbo, and working toward this degree without knowing what I could actually do with it when I graduated.”
Except that La O’ was not an undocumented (what some call “illegal”) immigrant. By 2006, La O’ had been living in the United States legally for 21 years. Yet, for the next five years, she would continue to struggle to get a green card, until she was so fed up with the holes in the United States immigration system that she voluntarily self-deported in 2011, leaving her family and friends to move to the Philippines. Being plopped into a country she hadn’t lived in since she was a baby seemed like a better option than the hoops she would have to jump through just to be considered for – let alone acquire – a green card, after 26 years of living in this country.
Ramona Diaz’s latest documentary Don’t Stop Believin’: Everyman’s Journey chronicles Arnel Pineda’s rise from unknown talent in the Philippines to lead singer of Journey – the classic underdog story she couldn’t believe no one else wanted to make.
by Ada Tseng
In the opening shots of Ramona Diaz’s documentary, Arnel Pineda is returning to the Philippines in 2008 for the first time after performing a successful tour with one of the biggest bands in the United States. After being greeted with much fanfare at the airport and meeting Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, the president of the Philippines at the time, Pineda decides he wants to visit his elementary school, down the street from his old house. As Pineda walks over, a crowd of children start following him, and he happily poses for photos. But when he meets the principal in her office, she is stiff and unimpressed.
What’s the name of your band?
Journey, Arnel Pineda replies, politely.
What’s your name again?
“I always knew that was the opening,” says director Ramona Diaz, laughing at the oblivious principal who is not sure why her day is being interrupted. “I was like, ‘Arnel, why do you want to go to school? You were never a school guy. You never even graduated.’ But he wanted to see the kids there, so I said, ‘OK. We’ll do whatever you want.'”
A year earlier, in December of 2007, Journey announced that they had found a new lead singer. As legend has it, Arnel Pineda was discovered after Neal Schon saw a YouTube video of Pineda performing a cover of “Faithfully” with his band The Zoo.
At the time, Journey band members Schon, Jonathan Cain, Deen Castronovo, and Ross Valory were itching to go on tour again, but they didn’t have a lead singer. It was just months after the 2007 series finale of The Sopranos ended with “Don’t Stop Believin'” playing in the background, reminding America of the hit-making rock band who reached their height of success in the ‘80s but has never quite gone away because of beloved Soft Rock radio stations across the country. It had been a decade since Steve Perry, the quintessential voice of Journey, left the band. Two replacement lead singers, Steve Augeri and Jeff Scott Soto, had come and gone. The band was close to giving up, until Neal heard Pineda’s voice online and convinced his bandmates to fly this unknown Filipino singer out for an audition.
It took a baseball bat to his head – literally – for Jo to take the leap of faith that would kick-start his professional acting career.
“Just give me 10 years,” Tim Jo told his mother, when she gave him her blessing to move to Los Angeles. “Maybe I’ll be on TV or something.”
Tim Jo was always a good kid. Growing up in Texas and Poland as the token Asian boy, he had his share of innocent rebellions – hanging out with the skaters, growing his hair out long, listening to punk music that his parents didn’t understand – but he wasn’t the type of son who risk worrying his mom and dad by impulsively moving to Hollywood if they did not approve.
After he graduated college, he was going to pursue acting the responsible way. He would stay close to home and chase local performing opportunities in Austin and Dallas. He would further his studies by earning a Master of Fine Arts in Theater.
Abhishek Kapoor’s latest film — starring newcomers Sushant Singh, Raj Kumar Yadav, and Amit Sadh — hopes to be a game changer in the Hindi film industry.
by Ada Tseng
The filmmakers behind Kai Po Che!, led by director Abhishek Kapoor (who previously helmed the award-winning 2008 Arjun Rampal film Rock On!) and the producers of 2006’s Rang De Basanti, are trying to prove something to the 100 year old Hindi film industry: that great stories can sell tickets at the box office even if there are no big-name stars attached.
It’s not a new desire; most recently, Karan Johar worked with unknowns for Student of the Year and Aamir Khan Productions often tries to utilize Khan’s behind-the-scenes star power to promote star-less films that may not normally get a fair shot at the box office. But Kai Po Che! is a classic male friendship story with mainstream sensibilities that appears to balance international appeal (it was the first Indian film to screen as part of the Berlin International Film Festival’s World Panarama section) with a backdrop that is deeply rooted in contemporary Indian history. And with opening box office numbers trickling in, reporting that Kai Po Che! has earned ₹4.5 crore (US$830,000) on their first day of release, Friday, February 22, they are off to a running start.
Kai Po Che! is an adaptation of the best-selling novel The 3 Mistakes of My Life, written by Chetan Bhagat, whose other novel Five Point Someone was adapted into 2009’s Aamir Khan film 3 Idiots, the highest-grossing film of all time in India. The story of Kai Po Che!, while fiction, interweaves real-life events in Ahmedabad’s history: the Gujarat earthquake in 2001, the historic India-Australia Kolkata cricket test match that took place soon after, and the 2002 Godhra Train Burning, in which a radical Islamic group killed 58 Hindu activists and triggered Hindi-Muslim riots that resulted in at least 1000 casualties.
The three protagonists of Kai Po Che! are long-time friends who may appear lackadaisical about life, but have the drive to prove they can start their own business and make a success out of themselves. Raj Kumar Yadav plays Govind, the by-the-book penny pincher who veers towards stingy but can be persuaded to be impractical when his two best friends dangle the hope of a bigger dream before him. Sushant Singh Rajput is the passionate, hot-tempered Ishaan, a respected local cricket hero whose obsession with cricket inspires their business idea: a sports shop that doubles as an equipment store and a coaching camp for youngsters. Amit Sadh plays Omi, the sweet one of the trio, the son of a Hindu priest and nephew of a religious politician who really just wants everyone to be happy.
Now in her third season playing the title role in The CW hit series, Nikita, Maggie Q knows what she wants — from the best angle to showcase a gown to how an action scene should be done in Hollywood.
by Ada Tseng
At the start of our interview, Maggie Q jokes that she might be in a concussed state.
“I was just fighting this guy, and I smashed my head into the camera,” she says, still stunned. “I paused for a second, I had tears coming out of my eyes, and then I was like, ‘OK, I’m ready. Let’s go.’”
For most people, this sounds like a horrific assault, but it’s just another day at work for the 33-year-old actress and action star. In the past two seasons of her CW television show Nikita, Maggie has fallen down a ladder, broken fingers, and even burned her breasts. The latter happened while filming a scene where she was running down a hill, shooting a gun. She was sprinting so quickly that the hot, empty shells fell straight into her bra.
Before Nikita, before Hollywood was courting her for blockbuster roles in Mission: Impossible III andLive Free or Die Hard, Maggie paid her dues acting in Hong Kong martial arts films like Gen-Y Copsand Naked Weapon — productions where safety codes were more lax, to say the least. Therefore, getting her potential head injury evaluated seems far from her mind. She’s on a strict half-hour break from shooting the show, now in its third season, and in exactly 27 minutes, she will go back for more.
When the creators of Nikita approached Maggie to star in their television re-boot of the 1990 French film of the same name, the Vietnamese-Irish-Polish American told them she wouldn’t do it unless it was good. This was her first time doing television, after years of acting in feature films, alongside action legends including Jackie Chan, Jet Li, and Sammo Hung.