Documentary Panel 2018

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So many good movies this year, but the ones that have brought me the most awe and inspiration are the docs. Furthermore, an amazing five out of the 15 Oscar shortlisted ones are made by Asian filmmakers. So how could we not attempt to gather them in one place and see what might be revealed?

The result — a panel of six director and producers representing four films, perfectly moderated by Rebecca Ford from the Hollywood Reporter — was, by all accounts, sublime.

Each of the docs is so worthy, so varied and so brave. From death-defying feats chronicled in FREE SOLO, to the personal journey of reconciling a decades-long betrayal in SHIRKERS, to the heartbreaking portrayals of skateboarding boys-to-men in MINDING THE GAP, to getting inside one of America’s most unrelenting optimists and TV personalities in WON’T YOU BE MY NEIGHBOR, these are all heroic efforts that plumb the depths of the human condition and ask the big questions.

I like to think that one big upside of being an outsider is that it hones one’s power of observation. So people of color may make particularly good documentarians.

Perhaps one of the funniest exchanges was when Jimmy Chin said that for years, while his sister was getting a PhD at Yale, and he was living outdoors climbing, his parents wondered where they went wrong in raising a homeless son. At which point Nicholas Ma, the son of famed cellist Yo-Yo Ma, said that his form of rebellion against his artist father was getting a corporate job. Which he fortunately no longer has.

We ended the afternoon singing Happy Birthday to Bing Liu, who turned 30 that day, and received the news that same day that he had won both the Truer Than Fiction Award at the Spirit Awards Brunch as well as the National Association of Critics Award for Best doc. (By the way, another China-born filmmaker, Chloe Zhao, won best film for THE RIDER from this association!)

In the meantime, Bing was also the runner up to Sandi Tan’s SHIRKERS being named Best doc by the L.A. Critics Association.

What an amazing group of films and filmmakers! So proud to have hosted them. Thanks to Asia Society SoCal, GoldHouse and CAPE for their support!