If you’ve been an avid reader of my site for some time, you’ll know that I reviewed Patrick Chen’s short film Underneath the Grey, a few years ago. The short film focused on an interracial love story (starring Michael Rosete and Tia DeShazor) with a unique twist, showcasing that love can go beyond racial barriers.
Chen’s short films, all of which focus on New York’s Chinese-American community, are provocative in the sense that they explore how race, culture, identity and society mesh together to affect lives, for better or worse. While the good side of this enmeshing was shown in Underneath the Grey, the bad side is shown in another of Chen’s films, The Last Tip, where he tells a melancholy story of a man (Geoff Lee) remembering happy times in his life while sitting in a restaurant. Turns out that restaurant is the real-life 69 Bayard Restaurant in Manhattan’s Chinatown, which recently closed its doors due to the area’s rapid gentrification. In The Last Tip, gentrification is the unspoken villain, sullying our protagonist’s memories.
Chen continues this thread of exploring identity in his new short film project, A Father’s Son. The film project is based on the work by crime novelist Henry Chang.
According to the Kickstarter page for A Father’s Son, the film will focus on Chang’s detective character Jack Yu.
A Father’s Son is story-spinoff based on author Henry Chang’s crime novel series featuring NYPD Detective Jack Yu. Set in the early ’90s when local street gangs terrorized Manhattan’s Chinatown, our story centers on Detective Jack Yu investigating the murder of a teenage boy involved in a turf war. Amidst the broad distrust and racial divide between the Chinatown community and NYPD, our lone lawman searches for a nondescript immigrant family to deliver a shattering message that also brings forth his own conflicted relationship with Jack’s father.
Chen wrote in his Director’s Statement about his personal attachment to Chang’s crime series.
“Since 2006, Henry Chang’s posters of his crime drama book series, Chinatown Beat, Year of The Dog, Red Jade, and Death Money were displayed at my two favorite NYC Chinatown restaurants: 69 Bayard and Wo Hop City. The posters caught my attention for years until I purchased his first book titled Chinatown Beat,” he wrote. “After reading the first installment, I became enamored with the fictional character Jack Yu, a NYPD Detective torn between justice and the injustice to his community. He was a born-and-bred New Yorker with a New Yawk accent trying to do good. It was the first time reading about a Chinese-American protagonist who wasn’t an American stereotype. Jack wasn’t a cook, waiter, deliveryman, an herbalist, railroad worker, opioid dealer, martial artist, monk or Manchu.”
Jack Yu was one of the few characters in the media that featured Chinese men without stereotypes. “Positive Asian-American role models were invisible unless it was Bruce Lee, Jackie Chan and Jet Li, or another martial art figure,” Chen wrote. “Only little known-actor Dennis Gong Dun came close portraying a Chinese-American protagonist in Year of the Dragon as Herbert Kwong, and as Wang Chi in Big Trouble in Little China. But that was only around 1980s.”
Thankfully, as Chen pointed out, the pendulum is swinging towards the media showcasing Chinese men in a more multifaceted way. “Today, thanks to organizations like Gold House and box-office hits like Crazy Rich Asians, there’s a genuine opportunity for good stories with tangible Asian-American characters,” he wrote. “It’s been 13 years since the release of Chinatown Beat and I felt this was the right time to bring Jack Yu to light in our story, A Father’s Son.”
So far, the film is starring veteran actors Tzi Ma (the Rush Hour film series, Wu Assassins, Mulan (2020), Veep) and Perry Yung (The Knick, John Wick: Chapter 2, Warrior). The film also features Chang as an executive producer, along with Chen and Joanna Shen as producers.
The Kickstarter for A Father’s Son will end October 25, so if you are interested, give what you can and support by spreading the word on your social media! You can also follow the film on Facebook and Instagram. You can follow Chen on his Twitter and Instagram accounts.