‘“I can’t separate my work into either art or activism,” said Saalfield.’ (Saalfield, 64) This quote would best describe the filmmaker Asian American filmmaker Alice Wu, and her feature film “Saving Face.”
Much like Catherine Saalfield with her works with Lesbian and Gay themes, Alice Wu’s rose to fame was
her script for Saving Face, a tale about a Chinese American woman about coming out, and falling in love for another Asian American woman, while her mom is mysteriously pregnant and being shunned by the Asian community. Her script won the CAPE (Coalition of Asian Pacific in Entertainment) screenwriting award, which was then made to an outstanding film on 2004. Her script and film was inspired by her own experience being a lesbian in an Asian community, as well as her mom’s middle age crisis.
“Defying colossal odds, she quit Microsoft and set out to do exactly that, giving herself five years to succeed.” (NY Times). She left everything on her journey to have her story told and be seen by millions of people. But being a triple minority, a woman, Asian and lesbian, the journey was pretty hard for Alice Wu, and I can imagine how much pressure she got when she decided to pursue filmmaking to get her script into a reality, with such subject matter. Having Asian women as main characters, with a gay theme, it would be hard to market it, let alone hard to actually gross revenue from it. This task would be very difficult for her, yet she still remained strong and dedicated to her goal despite the odds.
She was brought to many Hollywood studios to review her script in hope to get funded. But many wanted change her character’s race so white actors can play them, and some even wanted to change is from a lesbian story to heterosexual one. Wu decline all the changes, and kept on searching until she found the right producer to fund her movie.
She went on to Will Smith’s production company, which found the right producers at Sony to fund her project without changing and altering the story. But it still came with suggestions and requests, which Wu replied “These things are nonnegotiable..”’ (NY Times).
It took her exactly 5 years in succeeding in making her movie into a reality, which almost came close to breaking her promise she said to herself.
The movie won various awards, “Breakthrough Director” at Gotham Awards, “Viewer’s choice & Best Actress” at the Golden Horse Film Festival. It was featured in Sundance and Toronto film festival. It was a success overall.
When I first saw the movie, I was surprised that it had a lesbian story line, which I didn’t read the description prior (only just having known it was a success as an indie film), and other subject matter. But I as I went on to watch the whole movie, it was a heart warming romantic comedy that I really enjoyed. It was really honest and powerful in telling the story about an Asian woman coming out, and the reaction of the parent and the community who aren't fond of gays. This story was very relatable to anyone with the same situation.
Now I know why Will Smith backed this movie up. Alice Wu was making statement, even with gender, race and sexual orientation, you can still make it as long as you word hard to get it. It may be a harder route, but it isn't impossible. She sets a great example to anyone who aspire to be a filmmaker.