Segments in this Video

Sessue Hayakawa: Silent Screen Star (01:21)


Sessue Hayakawa became one of the most successful stars of the silent screen. He played leading romantic roles as well as villains. Archival film footage: "The Secret Game" (1917) and "The Tong Man" (1919)

Asian Sex Symbol (01:04)

Sessue Hayakawa had theaters full of white women coming to see an Asian male overpower them. Archival film footage: "The Cheat' (1915)

First Asian Leading Man (00:48)

Japanese actor of the silent screen, Sessue Hayakawa appeared in over 90 films, some of which he produced himself. He was the first and one of the last Asian leading men to star in a Hollywood production.

Caricatures of Asian Males (01:01)

As the motion picture industry grew, caricatures of the inscrutable oriental dominated the big screen. Hollywood hired non-Asian actors to play these nefarious roles.

Asian Male Roles: Diabolical (00:48)

The theme of many Hollywood films in the early days was that Asian men could induce white women to do all manner of evil things from drug use to murder.

WWII and Cold War Propaganda Films (02:02)

World War II propaganda films ratcheted up hostile images of Asians as enemy aliens and provocateurs. Occasionally Asian actors rose above the stereotypes. Archival film footage: "The Purple Heart" (1951)

Sessue Hayakawa Returns to Hollywood (00:46)

In 1957, Sessue Hayakawa returned to Hollywood to play against David Niven in "The Bridge on the River Kwai." His performance earned him an Academy Award nomination.

Mako in "The Sand Pebbles" (00:51)

In 1966, the young Asian actor Mako became the second Asian American to be nominated for an Academy Award for his performance in "The Sand Pebbles."

Asian Men as Complex People (01:20)

In a handful of Hollywood films in the late 1950s and early 1960s, Asian actors played complex individuals grappling with racial prejudice and social taboos. One example is "The Crimson Kimono" (1959).

Themes: Interracial Dating and Marriage (01:36)

James Shigeta plays leading roles at a time when there were very few Asian actors. His films dealt with interracial dating and marriage. Critical acclaim came from "Bridge to the Sun" (1961) with Carroll Baker.

All-Asian Cast (00:48)

"Flower Drum Song" (1961) starred James Shigeta. The film featured an entirely Asian cast, a first for American cinema.

Racial Equality and (00:43)

The Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s advanced notions of racial equality. Hollywood, however, resorted to pernicious racial stereotyping. Archival film footage of "Thoroughly Modern Millie" (1967) demonstrates this point.

Caricatures of Asian Men in Movies (00:58)

Caricatures of Asian men such as Mickey Rooney's role in "Breakfast at Tiffany's" powerfully impacted young Asian men in the audiences. Jason Scott Lee plays Bruce Lee.

Bruce Lee's Meteoric Rise (00:60)

Bruce Lee experience a meteoric rise to fame. By the early 1970s, the Kung Fu genre emerged with Bruce Lee as the action star. Bruce Lee changed forever the image of Asian American men in Hollywood.

Bruce Lee and Asian Pride (00:56)

Young Asian men felt proud to be Asian after Bruce Lee changed America's image of Asian men. Archival film footage from televisions "The Green Hornet" is included.

Bruce Lee: A Stereotype? (01:05)

Writer/playwright Frank Chin says that Bruce Lee is a stereotype. An American-born actor, he wears a mask in his role as Cato. He can only attack on command from his white boss.

Bruce Lee: Asian Sensation (01:15)

Whether Bruce Lee was a stereotype or not, he created a sensation in Asia and in the West. Actor Mako discusses Bruce Lee.

Bruce Lee's Untimely Death (01:09)

Because of Bruce Lee and his legacy, young Asian men felt pride in their heritage and in their masculinity. His untimely death at the age of 33 left a void.

Movie Stereotype of Asian Male (01:35)

Mako cautions Hollywood to avoid stereotypes because people see through them. An Asian actor points to a scene in "Absolute Power" by Clint Eastwood that includes a shameful stereotype of an Asian waiter.

Asian Males Emasculated in Film (01:12)

Hollywood has few roles for Asian leading men. A way to marginalize a group in terms of their power is to de-sexualize them. This is true of the American view of Asian men.

Stereotypical Asian Male (01:24)

A scene from the 1996 film "Fargo" illustrates the stereotypical Asian male moving in on the white female. "Romeo Must Die" illustrates audience resistance to a romance between an Asian male and African-American female.

Stereotypes Limit Aspirations (01:54)

Asian children growing up in America are well aware that they seldom saw Asian actors on television. And when they did, the actors played stereotypical roles.

Asian Children and Racial Self-Hate (01:19)

Some Asian children demonstrate a high degree of racial self-hate. It comes from images of Asian- American males as powerless and impotent, and images of white people in control.

Asian Males: Movie Criminals (01:07)

Images of powerful Asian males often portray them as criminals. Producers are reluctant to portray the Asian male in a position of authority over white males.

Change in Racial Stereotyping (01:21)

Actor Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa's goal is to change the image of Asian males in film. He says he will do what it takes, even if it means playing stereotypical roles as a means of "getting through" this phase in film history.

Television Executives Dismiss Diversity (01:31)

A writer turned in an episode for "The O.C." that included introducing Asian, Latino, and African-American students. The studio re-wrote it and replaced the ethnic students with white students.

Self-Identification as Chinese (01:05)

In a scene from Frank Chin's "Year of the Dragon" (1975), a sister and brother differ on their desires to change the image of Asians in American culture.

Agents of Change (01:12)

Phillip Rhee, actor/director, became involved in the film industry because there were no Asian-American heroes on the big screen. Director Justin Lin sees himself as an agent of change.

Casting Director and Diversity (00:32)

Casting director Heidi Levitt looks for ways to bring ethnic actors into films, even though there is not much call for it. More Asian writers must write for the screen, and current screen writers must create racially non-specific roles in their work.

"21 Jump Street" (01:15)

Actor Dustin Nguyen discusses his role in "21 Jump Street." Directors of the program admitted they did not know he was Vietnamese. They thought he was Japanese.

Television Error: Retell the Story (01:16)

Directors of "21 Jump Street" scramble to come up with a story that would explain why a Japanese character was actually Vietnamese. They made up a story to cover up their earlier mistake.

Asian in "Dante's Peak" (01:25)

Actor Tzi Ma reads for a role in "Dante's Peak," and the producers decide to make up a role for him. Tzi Ma said that the issue of his ethnicity never once came up on the set.

Revolutionary Film Event (01:12)

Will Yun Lee wins a role that was written for a white actor. He played the role of an American Chinese, not a foreign Chinese. Lee considers this a "revolutionary" event film history

Bobby Lee: Anti-Stereotype (01:18)

Comedian/actor Bobby Lee appears on Mad TV in 2003. He plays a stereotype, but he is against the image he plays. His humor may have opened some eyes.

Stereotypes to Challenge (01:01)

In the movie "Crash," a Korean couple is depicted as selling Thai refugees. An actor talks about being in the movie. Writer/playwright Frank Chin asserts that the stereotypes must be challenged.

What's the Harm in Stereotypes? (00:59)

Stereotypes represent displaced culture and history of an ethnic or minority group. Asians must enter into the ranks of producers, directors, writers, executives, and performers.

Asian-American Identity (01:31)

In "Chan Is Missing" (1982) and "The Great Wall" (1986) comes from a new generation of Asian filmmakers. Their bold and unconventional work features Asian American actors in films that celebrate their identity and culture.

Filipino-American Film (01:07)

Director Eric Byler discusses the lack of Asian male heroes in Hollywood movies. Change agents are writers, directors, and actors. "The Debut" (2000) is the one of the first Filipino-American films produced.

Universal Stories About People (01:23)

Eric Byler sees his stories as experiences between people, and not experiences between certain ethnic groups. Love and romance, he argues, can happen to anyone. Archival film footage: "Charlotte Sometimes" (2002)

Goal of a Film (00:34)

When the goal of a film is to serve the theme, the characters, and the art of film, the ethnicity of the actors should not detract from that goal. Archival film footage: "Barely Tomorrow"

Advice to Young Asians (01:19)

Producer Terence Chang's advice to young Asians who want to break into the film industry is, "Be worth it." It is a worthy challenge to hone the skills necessary to make a difference in movies.

Creativity and Rebellion (01:56)

Advice to young Asians wanting to break into film includes: 1) be rebellious and creative; 2) listen to those who have gone before and are breaking ground; and 3) collectively work to make the changes.

New Generation of Filmmakers (00:58)

A new generation of Asian-American filmmakers has begun to redefine the Asian-American male on their own terms. They refuse to make films that deal with identity alone.

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The Slanted Screen: Asian Men in Film and Television

DVD Price: $169.95
DVD + 3-Year Streaming Price: $254.93
3-Year Streaming Price: $169.95



This award-winning documentary explores portrayals of Asian men in American cinema, chronicling the experience of actors who have struggled against Hollywood’s ethnic stereotyping and discriminatory practices. The Slanted Screen covers the practice of using Caucasian actors in yellowface makeup, drawing upon a wealth of materials, including 50 rare film clips spanning a century. The program, which was broadcast nationally on PBS, features voice-over narration by Daniel Dae Kim as well as interviews with actors Mako, James Shigeta, Jason Scott Lee, Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa, Will Yun Lee, and Tzi Ma; producer Terence Chang; director Justin Lin; and casting director Heidi Levitt. (55 minutes)

Length: 55 minutes

Item#: BVL41296

ISBN: 978-1-61616-824-7

Copyright date: ©2006

Closed Captioned

Reviews & Awards

2006 Best Short Documentary—New York International Independent Film and Video Festival 

Performance Rights

Prices include public performance rights.

Not available to Home Video and Publisher customers.