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Carolina Asia Center wants to start conversations with 'Crazy Rich Asians' screening

On Wednesday, Sept. 5, Carolina Asia Center, the UNC Institute for the Arts and Humanities, the Philips Ambassadors and Carolina Public Humanities are hosting a screening and post-film panel discussion of the movie "Crazy Rich Asians" at Silverspot Cinema.

Jennifer Ho, the associate director of the Institute for the Arts and Humanities and a professor in the Department of English and Comparative Literature, said she organized this event in an effort to discuss the experience of Asian Americans both on UNC’s campus and in North Carolina because there are so few opportunities to do so.

“This is a much larger issue than just having a conversation on campus. We saw it as an opportunity for outreach with both the UNC community and local community,” Ho said.

Max Owre, the executive director of Carolina Public Humanities, said he believes the same thing.

“These topics of challenges of multiculturalism and identity in a multiculturalist society and topics of racism are challenging, but need to be discussed,” Owre said.

The groups involved with the screening and panel discussion all share a similar mission: they care about the humanities, and they care about having these discussions. Ho said that because there are so few opportunities to discuss the Asian American experience, the post-film panel discussion has additional importance.

“There have been so many expectations placed on this film,” Ho said. “It’s been 25 years since 'Joy Luck Club,' and this is the first big Asian-driven film since then. That’s a problem.”

UNC sophomore Mishka Mysh says he thinks the hype surrounding the film is well-deserved.

“It’s cool because it really is the first big movie featuring Asians in a long time. I remember there was a lot of hype like this when that TV show, 'Fresh Off the Boat,' first aired. It’s cool that stuff like this gets Asian Americans the spotlight,” Mysh said.

Ho, an expert in Asian American literature and a panelist, said the nature of the coverage of this film points to an even greater issue — Hollywood’s white-washing of the industry. 

 “Hollywood takes an oversized role in the public’s imagination," Ho said. 

Much of the coverage of the film thus far has revolved around questions asking how Asian Americans feel they have representation. Ho said that it’s unfair to ask these questions of what should be another box-office rom-com because it indicates this is an abnormality when a movie starring non-white performers should be a normal thing, yet people are asking these questions anyways.

“Is it that Hollywood represents reality, or is reality conforming to Hollywood?" Ho asked.

Owre says he hopes that, while this is a fun movie, he wants those attending to leave and do serious self-reflection after the panel.

“We can have a conversation that delves into serious topics,” Owre said. “Even in light-hearted genres, there can be really important topics.”

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