Better Living through Kung Fu

Nathan Hall

In what genre of film might you see a 900-year-old man pulling a gravity defying ship made entirely out of ancient virgin’s skulls? Further, in what genre of films would he pull the ghost ship with his extraordinarily long eyebrows? Where on earth is this a legitimate plot device?

The answer, of course, is Hong Kong,which turns out hundreds of hyperbolic action films every year, a fact celebrated by the Twin Cities’ own Asian Media Access in their weekly series of midnight movies, a series titled Cinema With Passion.

To be fair, the good folks over at Asian Media Access have branched out significantly over the years. Their films selections include Yakaza melodramas from Japan,Korean sex comedies and even some over-the-top Japanese animation, but it is the underlying, somewhat guilty pleasures of period fight films that tie the series together. These loveable cinematic underdogs do more than simply provide the Wu Tang Clan with ample soundbites to sample for their next double CD; They also provide a welcome escape from hohum American action fare, such as the grimly serious The Bourne Identity. Especially since the beloved International Video on the West Bank burned down this past summer, Asian Media Access’ film series is virtually the only place to see these gems outside of a bidding spree on Ebay.

Asian Media Access is a non-profit organization associated, in part,with Metro State College. Their self-declared mission, as articulated on their Web page (www.amamedia. org), is to “connect the disconnected: we want to challenge the traditional isolation of Asian American communities by helping Asian Americans realize that the media can be an effective and important tool for communication and education.”Many media avenues are inaccessible to impoverished and to people of color. The reasons for this vary from inexperience to sheer cost, and AMA counters this by setting up workshops that emphasize film production, exhibition and distribution.AMA also organizes a “media camp,”where interested Asians and non-Asians can get hands-on training in creating documentaries and feature- length pictures.AMA also has a hand in such diverse projects as the Children’s Film Festival, an anime festival that has played at the Suburban World theater in past seasons, the East Meets West cable access program. They are also partially responsible for a TV pilot episode called Color Aberration and the annual Chinese Film Showcase on the Metropolitan State University campus. In keeping with their educational mission,AMA has produced a considerable number of public service announcements aimed at the Pan-Asian community on topics ranging from HIV/AIDS to rape and teen pregnancy. These PSA were partially subsidized by proceeds from past festivals.AMA is currently celebrating its 10-year anniversary ñ impressive for an organization with a predominantly volunteer staff.

“Seventy percent of Pan Asians around here are first generation,” explains AMA executive director Ange Hwang, pointing out the recent wave of Hmong immigrants as an example, as well as foreign exchange students who decide to remain in the United States.Hwang explains that first generation immigrants sometimes have difficulty blending into society.”It’s very easy for them to get isolated within their families,”Hwang says.”It’s natural for someone to want to hang out with their own group, but society also needs to break some of those barriers down, and that’s where we come in.”

“We purposely show these films at midnight, as we are targeting people like restaurant workers and grocery store owners,”Hwang continues.”When they close up the shop they have nothing to do, and this provides an outlet for them to see Asians portrayed in a different way than the traditionally passive Hollywood roles.”

For more information on Asian Media Access, call (612) 376-7715 or check out their Webpage at