Much has changed from the 1990s to now in the film industry for the AANHPI community. Chris Chan Lee is a key proponent that has inspired many Asian Americans to pursue filmmaking since his groundbreaking feature, “Yellow.” On this episode, Chris and Rasha talk about his journey, how the film landscape has changed, and how it can still be improved.
Chris is a Korean-American filmmaker based in Los Angeles, C He graduated from the USC School of Cinematic Arts and has spent his career of over 25 years developing and producing Asian-American content. His debut feature film as writer/director was “Yellow” (1997), a coming of age movie about a group of teens in Los Angeles. The film features the first performances of John Cho and Jason Tobin, and re-envisioned the American teen comedy with an ensemble of Asian-Americans in the lead roles.
“Yellow” world premiered at the 1997 CAAMFest Film Festival (then called NAATA) with three sold-out screenings, and was selected for more than a dozen film festivals including Raindance U.K., Slamdance, Singapore International, Hawaii International, and the Los Angeles Asian Pacific Film Festival. The film won the Gold Carp 1st Place Audience Award for Best Feature Film and the Golden Reel Award for Best Independent Feature Film. “Yellow” had a successful limited national theatrical release including a 5-week run in Southern California across 9 screens. He served twice as a judge for the Filmmakers Media Fund Initiative at CAAMFest, and was an independent filmmaker panelist at events hosted by KASCON (Korean American Students Conference), WGA (Writers Guild of America), LA Asian Pacific Film Festival, and a number of other professional and community organizations. The film is considered a milestone in Asian American filmmaking.