Only Yesterday

   I was not able to attend the CAAM Film Festival, so the film that I chose to watch was the 1991 Studio Ghibli animation Only Yesterday directed by Isao Takahata, whose work includes other classic animations such as Grave of the Fireflies and The Tale of Princess Kaguya. Takahata is one of the pioneers of Studio Ghibli along with Hayao Miyazaki. Takahata’s films are characterized as completely unconventional to the Japan’s anime genre. Films such as Only Yesterday and Grave of the Fireflies are marked by their stoic nature of imitating reality and society rather than the typical fantasy and world building of animation. However, Only Yesterday still remained a public success in Japan’s box office and a critic’s favorite worldwide. The film follows a woman named Taeko who is nearing the end of her youth and opportunity to find marriage. Taking a break from her work and daily urban life, Taeko decides to work on the countryside for a week and recollect her roots. While this narrative is going on, Takahata simultaneously introduces a series of anecdotes to when Taeko was in the 5th grade.    While most movies and TV shows tend to use flashbacks to try build character arcs or blatantly calls for the audience to sympathize with a character’s past, Taeko’s 5th grade self feels more as if it was its own character who remains separate from the older Taeko and must overcome her own struggles throughout the movie. Takahata does his part to make sure that kid Taeko’s presence is firmly stamped in the movie as well. For instance, as most of the film takes place in a believable Japanese society where people are subject under societal and familial structure, there is a moment where Taeko solely breaks the film’s contrived reality. As she begins to crush for the first time on the school’s star baseball player, Taeko begins to fly through the skies, exploring all of her newfound emotions, similar to Aladdin’s flying scene. It’s in these minute moments that I’m truly in awe of Takahata’s mastery over his own story and his ability to purposefully break his film’s suspense of disbelief to fully evoke the emotions of his characters.Screen Shot 2016-04-11 at 3.15.04 PM

Another thing that  caught my eye from the beginning of the film was its opening credits scene. With the text on the screen being placed over a background picture of a woven mat, Takahata was paying tribute to the classic Japanese director, Yasujiro Ozu. After catching onto this bit, I began to notice what cinematic techniques Takahata directly took from Ozu, i.e. the “pillow shot” and shooting a “frame within a frame.” The “pillow shot” is a short filler shot that transitions one scene to the next by shooting tScreen Shot 2016-04-11 at 3.19.33 PMhe scenery of the location before focusing on the characters. Ozu popularized this shot as he never believed in using cross fades or any editing in post that detracted from the believability of the film’s environment and portrayal of Japanese society. Moreover, the “frame within a frame” shot was also commonly used in Ozu’s films where his characters are placed within a frame in the film’s environment, typically a boxed room or window. These shots often emphasized Ozu’s thScreen Shot 2016-04-11 at 3.20.26 PMemes of characters living within Japan’s familial and societal roles. These various cinematic techniques fit within Only Yesterday’s overarching themes as well, as both young and adult Taeko are learning how to find meaning and individual worth within Japan’s rigid societal structures.

   Though Takahata takes on many different relevant themes in his film, one of his most prominent topics is gender. In one scene, 5th grade Taeko struggles with growing up in a family where she is constantly being passed down clothes and accessories by her two older sisters. When Taeko is offered a hand-me down purse by her older sister, she refuses to stand her ground as her own individual. But when her whole family goesScreen Shot 2016-04-11 at 3.25.03 PM out for dinner, Taeko is frustrated with her image and decides to stay home even though she wants to go. In this scene, Taeko is shown chasing her parents and begging them to let her go with them. However, the father slaps her face as he becomes frustrated with her acting unlady-like, running outside without her shoes. This subtle and complex scene explores what it means to mature as a girl in a society where image and propriety are the societal standards of women. As Taeko desires be an individual within her familial system, this wish is contradicted by herScreen Shot 2016-04-11 at 3.25.14 PM other desire to mature into Japanese society as a woman. When Taeko becomes flustered by which position she should choose, her indecisiveness is immediately cut off by the domineering presence of her father. Her father in many ways embodies the strictness of Japan’s patriarchal society, caring more about Taeko fitting into society’s gScreen Shot 2016-04-11 at 3.26.02 PMender roles rather than her personal struggles as a girl. To me, as a male viewer, this scene was eye-opening. I felt that this scene complicated my notion of what it’s like to grow up as a woman that must constantly fit society’s standards. And it helped me realize that I should always strive to act with awareness and empathy as even the struggles of a 5th grade girl growing up may be endlessly complex.

My Artwork:

For my artwork, I wanted to draw something that was aesthetically simple and beautiful and also felt close to home. So I did a sketch of what was on my dining table


My Storyboard:

Official Film Link:

2001: A Space Odyssey


Director: Stanley Kubrick

Year: 1968

Length: 2h 41m

Genre: Sci-Fi

I was unable to go to the CAAM Fest due to illness, so instead I watched 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968), directed by Stanley Kubrick. It is amazing and has completely blown my mind. The special effects really shock me. I didn’t realize that the technology from 1968 had the capacity to create such realistic images that are also stylized and unique. Dave’s trip through the wormhole/stargate is beautiful and so unlike any recent or old sci-fi film I have seen. The space scenes are also very well crafted. I’m not sure if there were greenscreens yet in 1968, but whatever they used to create these images was extremely successful. The use of sound is what really impresses me, though. For the first 40 minutes of the film, there is no dialogue. The first few times that anyone travels through space, there is only non-diegetic sound. When Dave is outside of the spaceship and in the little pod, the only thing we hear is his breathing. These choices on Kubrick’s part are what really make the film stunning (at least for me).


Although 2001: A Space Odyssey is an amazing movie, there is almost no diversity in terms of gender, ethnicity, race, or class. Everyone who has a speaking role is a white, wealthy man, except for the HAL 9000, the robot that accompanies Dave and the others on their trip to Jupiter. Even though HAL is a robot, the crew members still address them with male pronouns. One scene in which this is really prominent is when the interview of the crew members and HAL is being broadcasted. The interviewers from back on Earth ask HAL some questions about the mission, then ask the crew members about HAL and other details of the mission. The interviewers and crew members refer to HAL with he/him/himself pronouns. This is most likely because HAL’s voice is deep, and the era in which this film was shot and produced was very sexist. Even so, I find it bizarre, and I have been noticing this trend of gendering robots in multiple places. I am currently taking a class called Science Fiction and the Politics of Imagination, and one of our units is about AIs and The Singularity. Some of the robots in the texts/films we have explored have clear genders, while others do not; despite certain robots not having a gender, they are gendered anyways, and usually with male pronouns. It’s just really strange to live in a society in which everything must have a (binary) gender, even things like robots or rocks which definitely do not understand the social construct that is gender.


My art:

2001 space odyssey art

mediums: colored pencil, ink, & watercolor pen

No Land’s Song



Filmmaker: Ayat Najafi

Country of Production: France/Germany/Iran

Year: 2014

Length: 93m

Language(s): In English, Farsi and French with English subtitles

Genre: Documentary

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No Land’s Song, a documentary directed by Ayat Najafi, took me on an emotional and fascinating journey into one of the more underrated struggles of Iranian women. Since the 1979 Islamic revolution, women have been forbidden to sing in public. The film follows Iranian composer Sara Najafi in her mission to organize an illegal concert featuring female solo performers. Sara bravely dives into her quest, reaching out to European musicians and recruiting supporters for her musical project. She also goes deeply into the history of the taboo, questioning orthodox religious leaders as well as women who were affected by the passing of the law. Of course she gets her fair share of problems too; continuous discouragement from the government, lack of support, and lots of hard decisions make it apparent that Sara was making a big statement on forbidden territory. But the determination, strength, and love behind Sara’s project is impenetrable, and stops at nothing to liberate the female voice in Iran.


Ayat Najafi skillfully captured so much emotion in this film. Every moment seemed so significant: the somber stories of old women who would cry in the middle of the night because they couldn’t sing, the tense encounters with clerics, the late night rehearsals the group had together, the long distance skype calls, the singing in the kitchen while making dinner, and much more. I was pleasantly surprised with how well the film tracked the ups and downs of Sara’s journey without using too much external explanation at all. I also really enjoyed how Najafi was able to feature all of the group’s music and their inspirations within the film in a way that worked really well and added to the connection with the viewer. Speaking of that connection, I think that the reason why this film was so impactful to me is because of my role as a young female musician. I never realized how much I took my own voice for granted. Music and performing are my self-expression, my creativity, my outlet, and my identity. I cannot imagine how life would be if I were stripped from all of it. I respect Sara and all those who are standing up for the Iranian woman’s right to sing, and I am inspired by their fortitude and passion.


There are a number of points of views being portrayed through this film. Not only does the film portray the perspective of the Iranian women, but also the perspective of the European allies who are part of the project, and the government/religious leaders opposed to it. One of the scenes where the perspectives clashed head on was when Sara went to visit an Iranian cleric to ask him about the policies passed after the revolution. Sara sat in a room the man, straight posture and wearing a black chador, a contrast from her attire in the rest of the film (either just a hijab or nothing at all). Using carefully crafted phrases as to avoid a tone of disrespect for the man, she asks him the reasoning behind the anti-singing policy for women. He explains that the reason that women are not allowed to sing goes back to very orthodox values. It was said that God created the voice of the women to be in a different wavelength/frequency, one that should not be heard in public because it is too arousing for men. It is improper for men to be distracted/aroused in public, and the female voice was created to trigger such things.


Obviously the perspective of the cleric contradicts the point of the film, but it is there to provide context about the type of people and the reasoning that Sara is opposing. Sara and other women do not believe in the reasoning the cleric provided, or at least they think that it is outdated. Sara later talks greatly about one of her idols, Qamar, a female Iranian singer of the ‘50s who was known for performing without a hijab. Women like Qamar and other singers before 1979 had great influence on Iranian women and youth, inspiring many women to perform music as an outlet, empowering force, and source of entertainment and connection. The revolution stripped women of that one very valuable aspect of their lives, and banned the ability to even purchase music with female singers. Despite the very apparent difference in ideals and the restrictions for women within Iran, the liberation movement never faltered under the pressure of those trying to bring it down. Not only did Sara make history, but she opened the doors for generations of Iranian women to come.

MY ARTWORK: Continue reading No Land’s Song

Good Ol’ Boy

Good Ol’ Boy is a 2015 film directed by Frank Lolito. It stars Roni MV5BMTA2MjEzOTE2ODReQTJeQWpwZ15BbWU4MDkzNzM4Mjcx._V1_UY1200_CR92,0,630,1200_AL_Akurati as Smith, who is a young Indian immigrant living in Oklahoma in 1979. He loves American pop culture and is best friends with/in love with his across the street neighbor Amy, while his parents are still traditional Indians who want him to maintain his Indian identity, which includes partaking in an arranged marriage. Other stars in the film include Jason Lee as Butch Brunner, Amy’s father, and Anjul Nigam as Smith’s father. The film is Lolito’s directorial debut, but he has previously produced many movies including Big Mamma’s Boy and The Look-Alike.


To put the film in perspective, it takes place in 1979, which is a year before Ronald Reagan began his eight-year tenure as president. Smith’s family immigrated after he was born, which means they must have come to America around 1970. There was a war in India against Pakistan over land in 1965 and a war in 1971 where India intervened in the Bangladesh war of Independence. After the wars many refugees came to India, making it hard for many Indian families to leave there. It is possible that Smith’s family came to America because of one of these events. Of all US immigrants, Indians are the most prosperous and well educated. Many come to the US because they are professionals that want to get good American jobs in fields like medicine or law. Smith’s father is a doctor, so that also could have been their reason for immigration.

Because the film came out last year, it is hard to group it with other films from the decade. But within its genre, which is family, drama and comedy according to IMDB, some popular movies from those categories that come out last year were Inside Out, Trainwreck and Spotlight. The movie has only been shown in film festivals up to this point, but it first debuted less than a year ago at the Seattle International Film Festival. The audience at the showing I attended were mostly Asian-American and white younger to middle aged people, but I believe that the audience the film hoped to attract were immigrant families (especially Indian ones) and families with kids age 10 and older.

Most of the actors in the film were fairly unknown. Jason Lee is Screen Shot 2016-03-23 at 11.04.14 PMdefinitely the most famous actor, previously starring in movies like Almost Famous and Alvin and the Chipmunks, and as the title character in the sitcom My Name is Earl. Hilarie Burton, who plays Peyton in One Tree Hill, is also in the film as Amy’s mother. It is possible that the film starred mostly unknown actors because it had a small budget, but also possible that the film wanted unknown actors because it allows people to see the characters as more original. Also, there are not very many known Indian actors besides ones who are not the type to be in independent movies.

There are a good variety of characters because some are young and some are old, and some are Indian and some are white. Young Smith is the main character, but we also see him as an adult. Jason Lee is the secondary character, which helps tell both the Indian immigrant and white lower-class story. Some archetypes are used in the film including a character who is the child of immigrant parents who do not understand how American culture works, having the main character fall in love with the girl next door, the main character having a rebellious older sibling, and having mean students in the classroom that the main character goes to school in.Good Ol Boy6 I believe that these archetypes are necessary because one of the main ideas of the film is that it is a classic American story, but with a spin because Smith is an Indian immigrant. There are also some broken archetypes, like not having any racial tension within the neighborhood. Smith’s family gets along well with the other families even though their culture is different, and the other families are very accepting. Other broken archetypes are that the girl next door does notice Smith instead of having him pine over her for the whole film, and the film does not end with the classic happily ever after ending.

Scene analysis (lens of race/ethnicity)

Ol’ Boy does a very good job with representing more than one ethnicity even though the movie is about an Indian family. The main way that the movie does this is by having one of the main plots of the movie be the family (but mostly Smith’s) relationship with the redneck family across the street. The two families have genuinely nice relationships with each other. While they don’t completely understand each other’s customs and cultures, they accept them and there is not a huge amount of tension surrounding them. This is nice compared to many movies where the whole plot is about how people cannot get along because of their different cultures. The one scene I want to analyze is particular is the scene taking place on Halloween. Smith needs a costume to wear to school, but his dad will not let him buy one because his mom is capable of making one. When it is not ready on Halloween morning, Smith’s mom tells him that she will bring it to his school. But when the movie cuts to him at school, he is the only student not wearing a costume. He says his mom is bringing it, but she never does. The other kids in the class tease him and say he has a really good Indian costume on. At school, Amy, the daughter of the family across the street asks him to trick-or-treat with her.


When Smith gets home, he tells his mom to hurry up because he needs to get ready to go trick-or-treating. When Amy shows up he hurries and puts on the costume. He expects it to be a Darth Vader costume, but it is instead a homemade Ganesha (a Hindu god) costume. Both families stand there as Smith tries it on. This scene represents the movie well because it is the classic story of Smith wanting to be American but his parents failing to understand exactly what that entails. You also have Amy, who is wearing a homemade Charlie Chaplin costume because she knew her parents would forget to buy her a costume. And you have both sets of parents standing there happily looking at the children. It is obvious that there is a difference between these two children and their backgrounds, but they do not judge each other or care what the other is wearing. It is a very pure movie, showing that while there are some kids who tease the Indian kid who is not wearing a costume, there are also others who do not care that someone does not look or act like them.

My CAAM fest experience

My experience going to CAAM fest was very positive. When I arrived with my dad at the Alamo Drafthouse in the Mission district of San Francisco, I was immediately taken by the unique quality the theater has of being like a restaurant and very technologically savvy. We did not think ahead, so when trying to buy tickets we used a screen located in the lobby of the theater. Ultimately, the CAAM fest tickets were different than the tickets for regular movies, so we easily found the two volunteers who were working for CAAM fest to help us. They kindly informed us that tickets to Good Ol’ Boy, my film of choice, was sold out but we could go to the stand-by line, which let people in when others did not show up.

We stood in that line for about twenty minutes and then were let into the theater. There were a lot of seats left, so I think everyone got off the stand-by list. We had a good spot near the back, and were able to purchase food just as the movie started. I had never been to the theater before, and was overwhelmed by the tables that were in front of our seats for food, and by the vast menu options. We ordered some drinks and snacks and then just focused on the movie. The table was also nice because it allowed me to write notes about the movie on a hard surface. One complaint I have is that it was sometimes difficult to concentrate because there were always waiters walking back and forth to deliver food to different seats. My original thought about the movie while seeing it was that I was surprised about how normal it was. I know movies shown at Film Festivals are usually Indie movies that have not been released yet, and this fell under that category, but it really reminded me of a movie I would see in the theaters, and I hope it does make it to theaters. I was also surprised by all the different people that were in the audience laughing with me. CAAM fest is an Asian film festival, but there were people of all races and ages watching this movie and enjoying it. This made me appreciate how much the movie could appeal to all kinds of people. Overall, my experience seeing Good Ol’ Boy made me feel very positive about CAAM fest, and I would definitely go back to see another indie movie.

My artwork

My artwork is a map of India and a map of the United States and put words representing what each place meant to Smith inside of each map. I chose to do this because it shows the dichotomy between the two places, and also shows how both places are important to Smith in different ways.


Good Ol’ Boy facebook page

IMDB page

France is Our Mother Country

La France est notre patrie, directed by Rithy Panh, is a film about the stories and the horrors of the French occupation of Cambodia. Made up entirely of footage, particularly propaganda footage, from the time period (mid-19th century), the film juxtaposes the wealth and class of Cambodia and its French people who changed their culture and way of living. Rather than voiceover, the french words are projected between clips of footage. They have messages like “working for the mother country is a joy” and “one day the people without history will thank France for their benevolent tutelage”. The images are often very contrasting to the theme or message of the text before it.

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Rithy Panh was born in Cambodia and was a survivor of the Khmer Rouge labor camps. He escaped to Thailand then, at age 16, Panh moved to Paris where he remained to study film at IDHEC (Institute for the Advanced Cinematographic Studies). Panh stated in an interview, “J’ai voulu faire un montage, et puis laisser les gens regarder les images… Mais peu importe l’âge ou l’origine des spectateurs – ici il y avait des jeunes métisses de la deuxième génération, des jeunes de l’immigration chinoise, algérienne… dans la salle – chacun s’empare de cette histoire de l’époque coloniale.” This translates, roughly, to Panh saying he simply wanted people to make a montage and have people look at the images, he was surprised at the diversity in the audience and noted that everyone found a way to connect with the colonial time period.

Interview with Rithy Panh

Rithy Pahn also said in this interview that “il n’y a pas beaucoup de films sur cette histoire.Vous sentez que vous avez une double culture. Et c’est important de répondre à ces questions pour éviter tout malentendu”, translating to ‘there are not a lot of films about this history. One might think there is a double culture so it is important to respond to these questions in order to fully understand’. When asked about the film’s influence from or toward Charlie Hebdot, Panh responded “l’histoire de la colonisation est compliquée et complexe. Elle doit être vue de plusieurs côtés. En même temps, c’est notre histoire : la souffrance est commune, elle est collective. Donc, il faut y aller d’une manière franche et sincère pour voir des choses”, meaning ‘the history of colonization is complicated and must be seen from many points of view. At the same time, this is our history: suffering is common, it is collective. So, you have to have a frank and sincere way to see things’. I think that all of this is important in understanding how Panh made this movie and what kind of director he is. Panh obviously hopes for people to watch this film and have their own perspective about it, as long as that perspective takes into account both sides and the time period.





My artwork:

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-I made this collage with tissue paper and black and white drawings on a canvas
-The film was mostly in black and white, but slowly transitioned into color, so my artwork, especially the girl’s hair, represents that transition
-One of the more powerful images in the film was of a man lying on the ground, dead. Before the shot, french text was projected translating to “if the motherland is threatened we will take up arms”. Then after the shot of the dead man the film projected “one day the people without history will thank France for their benevolent tutelage”
-The question mark on the man’s face represents one of the themes throughout the movie of questioning identity


Video Clip

I took a closer look at this particular video clip which uses text and racial contrast to show the disparity between the white men and the cambodian people. The text used in this part of the movie includes “Les indigènes sont habiles à ces travaux collectifs”, meaning ‘the natives are adept at this type of collective work’, and “Le travail pour la patrie est une fête”, meaning ‘the work for the country is a party’. A shot of a white man holding a gun and smoking a cigarette is juxtaposed with a clip of Cambodian people working in a field. The gun is used as a symbol of power in this scene and throughout the entire film. This scene especially shows the exploitation of younger women with the clips of nearly naked women carrying baskets on their heads and hundreds of women working in the fields. The music is sparse and cold until the end of this scene when it says ‘the work is a party’, then the music becomes upbeat and happy to show that the sound and text do not at all represent the intensity of the labor.


Watching this movie at the Alamo Drafthouse in the mission as a part of CAAMFest gave me a unique point of view on this film. There was a variety of people in the audience, but the majority of them seemed to be avid film festival enthusiasts. The film was abstract and up for interpretation, so I feel that everyone in the audience had their own personal takeaway from the film (perhaps with the exception of the man who fell asleep next to me and was snoring throughout the film). By solely using footage from the time period Rithy Panh was able evoke powerful feelings in the audience and even a few tears.

Pan’s Labyrinth Review

The film was bittersweet. It had amazing characters that you could get easily attached to. It featured a storyline that probably took weeks of work. And, it was visually appealing. It also used a lot of good quality CGI which is surprising because the film was made in 2006. The animation was amazing and the characters were exceptionally creepy. It was the kind of film in which you were confused by the ending, but happy nonetheless.

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The General was probably the most sexist character. All he cared about was his son being born. He didn’t care for his wife. Whenever his wife was sick or hurt, he would only save her because he wanted his son to live. This was usual during this time period—a time when fascism flourished–because it was a fascist type of environment. Leaders tended to care about who would rise to power after their death.Screen Shot 2016-04-05 at 9.49.54 AM

One of the main storylines in the movie was the fight between the upper class (they had a house, and it consisted of the general, his wife, many soldiers, and the main character) and the lower class (who lived in the woods). The upper class was trying to keep lower class out of their “fortress” while the lower class was trying to over take the fortress.

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(4:29): This scene is a close up of Ofelialooking at the totem that has lost part of its face. The camera is angled in a way that it looks like the totem is watching Ofelia. The rule of thirds is partially being used here because Ofelia and the totem seem to share the same section of the shot. The music is dramatic, but sad, piano music plays as she watches the totem. Then, when Ofelia stops walking around the totem, the music because much more sinister. It almost sounds like dark Celtic music. The camera then follows Ofelia as she begins to walk to the right of the totem. Also, the light in the shot seems darker because Ofelia was walking in the middle of the woods.

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(4:38): This is a close up shot of Ofelia holding the totem’s missing eye. She found it before she saw the totem and she’s contemplating whether or not to put it back in the totem’s eye socket. The rule of thirds is used in this shot because the totem’s eye is in the middle while Ofelia’s hand seems to come out of the right of the screen. The music continues to be dramatic, as if Ofelia is going to decide not to put the eye in the totem’s eye socket. But, she chooses to and that leads to the next shot.

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(4:44): The shot type continues to be a close up shot. Here, Ophelia has put the eye in the totem’s eye socket and it appears to be watching her with a stunned expression. The lighting hitting the totem makes the mouth look like it is an entrance to some type of portal. The mouth sits perfectly in the middle of the shot. It sits like this for five seconds before a bug appears from its mouth.

Screen Shot 2016-04-05 at 9.07.13 AM (4:49): The music stops playing once a praying mantis type of bug appears from the mouth of the totem. Ofelia looks shocked that a bug has appeared from the totem’s mouth. Her confusion seems to be echoed by the shot because the shot is no longer following the rule of thirds. Also, the totem can be seen to the left of the shot as some sort of dark entity. This shot is particularly important because the bug that emerges from the totem starts the main plot line. It follows Ofelia around, indirectly giving her a quest.

Overall, the film was amazing and I highly recommend it.  Also, It addressed the topic of fascism and how it affected people in every day life. Guillermo Del Toro does an amazing job of creating a fictional society that is constantly in conflict with itself and outside forces. It is a dramatic film that is unlike anything during its time period (when it was released in 2006).  It is incredibly unique.

Tokyo Drift

The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift was the third installment in the Fast and Furious series. It made its debut in 2006 with a current box office estimate of $158.5 million. It is ranked a mere 37% on rotten tomatoes and was the least popular film in the Fast and Furious series. Although this film is the least popular film in the seven (and soon to be eight) film series, it was the turning point in the franchise in terms of directing. Another reason this film stands out so much from the rest was its deviation from the natural plot. The normal sequence of events in a Fast and Furious movie follows a crew completing a heist of some sort. Tokyo Drift follows the life of Sean Boswell and includes almost none of the original cast. The movie is centered on his entrance into illegal Japanese street racing and builds up to him ultimately challenging D.K, the nephew of a member of the Yakuza, for high stakes.

Justin Lin, the director of Better Luck Tomorrow, was hired to direct the third installment. He agreed on the condition that he did not want the film to just be about “fast cars driving around geisha girls,” something the previous films were notorious for. Lin wanted to make the series sleeker and decided the film had to be set in Japan to become more “postmodern.”

Lin went on to direct films three through six and Tokyo Drift marked the start of a sleeker series. Although Lin took the films in a new direction when it came to directing (see below storyboards for further insight), the audience did not respond well to the rather flat acting or the differentiated storyline. After Tokyo Drift, the films more or less returned to their natural plot, but Lin’s directing still remained to ultimately transform the entire series.

Fun fact about the movie: after negative screenings to test audiences, Universal Studios decided to have Vin Diesel make a cameo in the end of the film in order to stimulate profit. Vin Diesel and the original cast proved essential to the success of the franchise.

Reflective Paragraph

This was the first time that I had seen Tokyo Drift. I have seen all of the other films in the series and the biggest difference was definitely the color scheme. In all of the other films, bright colors are used almost everywhere you look. This is the kind of cheap attention that they are using to draw in audiences with while they combine this technique with constant explosions and over the top plots. Tokyo Drift was much simpler and toned down. It felt realistic. Not everything in life is full of color and I think the dark color scheme made the movie more relatable and connected with me as a member of the audience. Not to mention the plot did not involve any high tech weapons that could recognize your face from any point on the entire planet.

Besides color, I thought that the camera work inside of the vehicles genuinely made the movie great. These techniques were much more subtle, but the camerawork in the vehicles perfectly mimicked every twist and turn of emotion. The superb mix of high and low angles affectively mirrored positions of power. The most impressive technique used was varying the quality of handheld shots. When a character was losing control or in danger, the shots were shaky and chaotic. When a character was hitting his/her stride and entering a position of power the shots were stable and longer. Filming inside of a vehicle is no easy task and those were the shots that captured the entire emotion of the film.

I attended this movie at the New Parkway theatre in Oakland. The majority of the audience was white (about 90%) for this CAAM Fest film. Although this movie takes place in Tokyo, two of the four main characters are white (and they are arguably the two most central characters). This film is entirely based in Tokyo, yet we only experience the story from a white man’s view. I did some research, and it turns out that had the main characters been completely Asian, the film would have suffered huge profit losses. This was because the idea of “The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift” was already regarded as ‘foreign,’ in a predominantly white American film franchise.  As a result, the initial story was created to have Sean (the main character) move to Tokyo from America.

Scene Analysis: (Lens of class)

The opening scene of “The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift” is a car race between a jock and Sean. The entire POV of the movie is a bystander experiencing Sean’s actions. Sean is from a lower class family and moves around constantly. He is both an outsider as a result of class and as a result of his constant moves. When Clay (the jock) catches Sean talking to his girlfriend, he immediately gets on the offense and makes fun of Sean and his car, calling him “trailer trash” and a “hick,” all the while bragging about his “80 grand,” “500 horsepower,” sports car. 

Although these insults may seem rather silly, and it appears that Sean will have the last laugh by winning the race, the reality is that those insults have very solid ground in the real world. When they are at the police station, an officer tells Sean that Clay and his girlfriend will go free without a slap on the wrist because their “mommies and daddies are too hooked up.” Sean faced hard jail time at the age of 17 for the same crime that two people of a higher class will forget about in a few years after getting zero punishment. The silly comments made earlier become all too real and reflect powerfully the lens of Sean as a lower class.



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Shot 1: (29:00-31:30)

At first glance, these two shots seem rather similar. In this particular scene, Sean is racing in Tokyo for the first time against D.K (the nephew of a powerful member in the Yakuza). Sean does not know how to drift and is losing badly to D.K. The low angle used with D.K embodies the position of power that he has over Sean in the race. Sean’s eye level angle conveys that he is not as powerful as D.K in this moment and also conveys a lack of stability. The low angle shot with D.K is shot with little shaking while the eye level shot with Sean is shaky and shorter, creating a type of chaotic feel. Lastly the shot with D.K is a medium shot, allowing the camera to observe his fluid motion as he shifts gears, turns the wheel, and shows less emotion. The other shot is a close up of Sean, allowing the camera to see his emotion (which shows that he is out of his element) and also restricts the camera from seeing some of his hectic movements (shifting gears and turning the wheel) that creates a rushed and uncoordinated feel.


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Shot 2: (1:02:35-1:03:25)

This shot is the scene where D.K beats up Sean after finding out that he had been driving with his girlfriend (Neela). This entire scene is shot on a handheld camera (even leading up to the actual action) and it forces the audience to lose a sense of control. D.K is only portrayed with a low angle shot while Sean is only portrayed in a high angle. These angles are meant to establish D.K in a position of power and Sean in a position of weakness. Twinkie can be seen in the back, completely helpless and unable to help Sean.


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Shot 3: (1:11:15-1:16:09)

This is the shot moments before Han’s car is slammed into by another vehicle, ultimately leading to his own death. Before this, there is a chase, and the shot lengths were used very effectively during the entire scene. At the start of the scene, the shots of Han and D.K were rather lengthy, but as tensions built, the shots became more and more hectic; shortening and becoming shakier. This shot is the final shot in the chase and it more than a second long. Every other shot leading up to it had been a fraction of that length. The build up of the speed creates a very chaotic feel that eventually plateaus into this shot where the audience is entirely caught off guard by the big crash. Another element that greatly helped the overall affect of the crash was the music that stopped the moment of the crash.


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Shot 4: (1:29:15-1:34:26)

These shots are taken from the final race scene between Sean and D.K where the loser must leave Tokyo. This shot is interesting because it is the exact opposite from their first race (shot 1 above). This time, D.K is shown at eye level, having lost his position of power. He also has a close up that clearly reveals that he is sweating. Sean is shown at a low angle, having taken over D.K in the race and as ‘drift king.’ His close up, opposite to D.K’s creates a stronger position of power as it reveals he is smiling. The shots of Sean are long and steady, aiding his emotional close up in convincing the audience that he is now in control. The shots of D.K have become shorter and shakier allowing his loss of control to be revealed both through his emotion and through the camera work.


Finally, for your viewing pleasure I have provided a brief short film reaction to Tokyo Drift to showcase my own driving skills. Just a bit of background: Each song used in the short movie is taken directly from the Tokyo Drift itself. Also, many of the shots are modeled after the ones used in the real life movie. Have fun watching this little short film and take pleasure in watching my friends make fools of themselves while I school them in some Oakland Drifting. Enjoy!


Tokyo Drift imdb


Tokyo Drift Box Office

Justin Lin

Tokyo Drift Background

Tokyo Drift Rotten Tomatoes


James Burwick (4/4/16)


         Right Footed is an 81 minute documentary about Jessica Cox, a motivational speaker and disability rights activist that was born without arms. The film also documents her ability as an expert martial artist, her journey to become the first armless airplane pilot, her activism work in other countries (including lobbying Congress to pass an international disability rights act), and also her marriage anIMG_9121d mentorship to young women with the same disability. The film has won numerous awards (which can be found on the website).

Right Footed was directed by Nick Spark, an Emmy Award winning filmmaker (for The Legend of Pancho Barnes and the Happy Bottom Riding Club) and USC School of Cinematic Arts graduate. Through the  the International Documentary Association (IDA)–a 501(c)3 in Los Angeles–Right Footed was made on a non-profit basis and was partially crowdfunded on two occasions (at least $23,177 came from one Indiegogo campaign and $37,763 from another campaign).

The film follows two years of her life, starting with a montage of childhood photos, and begins “present day” (2013) with Jessica’s wedding. The film follows Jessica to Ethiopia where she speaks to disabled children, the Philippines where she supports disability rights, Capitol Hill where she lobbies Congress, and all of the challenges of living without in a world that was designed for people with.

Jessica (and Nick Spark) attended the screening and appeared before (Nick) and after (Jessica) the film, taking questions from the moderator and audience. The intent of the film was to spread awareness (about the Guinness World Record-holding motivational speaker as well as finding mentors for disability) and raise support for the CRPD, a disability rights act treaty that is still open for review by the U.S. Senate.

Right Footed is a documentary, so genre, technological advancements, other films of the decade and genre, actors, character breakdown, and archetypes aren’t necessarily pertinent or applicable. However, it was quite evident that the audience, characters, and filmmakers made up a distinct demographic. The audience was made up of people who (superficially) seemed to identify as Asian, Asian-American, or White. With more research, the production team, director, producer, and other staff seemed to fall into those same groups as well. The New Parkway (where we saw the film on the closing night of the CAAM Film Festival), is situated in the Northgate Waverly neighborhood of Oakland, encircled by Uptown and Lakeside to the South, Oak Center and McClymonds to the West,  Hoover Foster and Pill Hill to the North, and Oakland Ave-Harrison Street, Adams Point, and Lake Merritt to the East. These communities that surround Lake Merritt tend to be wealthier and whiter, and don’t reflect the demographics of Oakland. The New Parkway is just off San Pablo and is surrounded by a tiny strip of trendy, hipster restaurants (see Mua Oakland), a few local galleries, and several blocks of rundown car dealerships and businesses with barred doors and windows. Generally, gentrification has clearly split the city into affluent communities and underserved ones, but in this neighborhood, it’s a little more subtle. It combines the aesthetics of rundown-just-so, artsily-exposed-brick-on-glass-on-steel and industrial architecture, with actually rundown, brick-by-necessity, auto-industry-fueled components. The mix is dizzying, but when you look closer, it’s easy to see which buildings have been renovated and carefully composed to fit in with the rest of the scenery.

Another fun fact, while we were waiting in the rush line for Painted Nails, the film we were initially intending to watch (a documentary about the nail industry), we crossed a picket line: the New Parkway isn’t unionized. (And everyone else in the rush line seemed to be White.) The Parkway, although art has typically created cultural community, has just served to highlight thIMG_9014e divides in the Oakland community. It draws the wealthy (statistically) white residents from the more affluent communities (statistically), who spend their money in the trendy shops that have appeared through the process of gentrification (statistically) and the economy of trendy hipster stores benefits while the local stores supported by the traditionally POC (statistically) lose more of the money that has circulated out of reach. This is particularly interesting because of the mission of the CAAM Fest, to popularize and include films that center on or are made by Asian Americans. Despite that, Asians have been the only minority group to surpass the median earning value of Whites in the U.S. It struck me as interesting that this film was screening in the Bay Area, where gentrification has become increasingly more noticeable. So the white filmmakers (for the CAAM Fest films, if the filmmakers were not Asian or Asian America, they were White–almost without exception) were capitalizing on the stories and struggles of Asian Americans in an area and country where they were profiting the most. It always makes me uncomfortable to see majority groups profiting off minority groups, but in this case, it just makes me uncomfortable that the two highest earning groups are profiting in an area where they they don’t represent the general demographics. That is to say, white Oakland has benefitted from an Asian film festival which has promoted the gentrification of the already-gentrified Lake Merritt-general area, while the groups that make up the majority of the population in Oakland are left out of the cultural and economic growth (according to a recent census, more than half of the people in Oakland identified as Black or Latino). Meanwhile, the gentrification has forced minority groups to leave Oakland (a 25% drop in Black families), despite the fact that the city’s culture is credited to its Black residents.

Despite the fact that the film was intended to equal the field in terms of ability, it seems that the racial aspect wasn’t as big of a component (in this theater anyway). Although Cox is a woman of color herself, she doesn’t appear to mention it at all–a huge departure from most of this decade’s documentaries. To put it simply, while she shattered many clichés and typecasts about persons with disabilities, her identity as a woman of color remained untouched. Filmmakers (consciously or not) seemed to have subscribed to the culture of intersectionality and race. In last year’s documentary about the feminist movement (She’s Beautiful When She’s Angry), the topic of race was addressed, not just as a result of the movement, but as a problem that was never considered during the time period. The documentary pointed out that white feminism was leading the movement, without making space for the women of color who felt that they deserved equality–for women, and for people of color as well. This aside though, the foray into ability and disability, and attempt to educate a lay-audience was enjoyable and moving. The documentary was a well-crafted glimpse into the life of an ambitious and determined woman, and while it was lacking in cinematography, the care put into the film was clear through the patience and time commitment that were put into this film.




1: The first storyboard is of the title sequence. The main character (named Jessica Cox) is featured in the left third of the screen, while the title takes up the right two thirds of the screen. Jessica is doing her make-up with her right food, giving meaning to the title and giving the audience context for the plot of the film. My mom and I had actually walked into the film without any prior knowledge of what it was about, and despite the producer and screenwriter appearing for a pre-show interview, the title still hadn’t clicked, so this scene was essential in my understanding of the film.IMG_9020

I chose this scene because of the rule of thirds. It doesn’t quite make sense to have Jessica on just one third, but because of the typography and shot type, this presentation seems to be the most natural. In the initial spot, Jessica is sitting in the back of a car on one side, and the title appears over the empty spot next to her, creating a nice visual effect. The stark typography also keeps the frame minimal, so that the focus is equally on the title as well as Jessica ( who has already been in frame for several seconds).


2: This scene is about twenty minutes in. Before the show, the producer, main cameraman/cinematographer/etc., came out and answered some questions about the film and talked about the process (it took about 3 years to make) and about meeting Jessica and documenting her life. From the Q+A, it seemed like the wedding was the focal point of the wedding, and in the movie, it represents the point where the documentary actually begins. Patrick (the husband) appears regularly throughout the movie, and so the introduction is really very necessary. It also opens the next arc of the film, which deals with finding love and the self-esteem issues that young girls with disabilities have. In this particular scene, Patrick is positioned on the right third of the screen with his name on the lower right of the screen.IMG_9078

I chose this scene because of the shot type. It’s very similar to the title sequence and the favored shot type for new character appearances in the documentary. Patrick appears on the right third in this scene while Jessica appears on the left third in the title sequence, giving the effect of continuity to the viewer. The typography is also very minimal so the focus is mostly on Patrick.

3. In this scene, Patrick and Jessica are walking in front of the Capitol Building (home to the U.S. Congress). Jessica has just come from lobbying Congresswo/men to support the CRPD (Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities), an international disability rights act that’s based on the ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act).

IMG_9199I chose this scene because of the camera angle. It’s shot from below so that Jessica and Patrick appear taller and larger in proportion to Capitol Hill, while including the entirety of the building in the shot.

4: This was one of the last scenes in the movie. It starts with Jessica accompanying Patrick on the piano with her toes with a voiceover about how she’s looking forward to breaking more boundaries and doing more outreach work. The scene then cuts to her skydiving (and then the credits).IMG_9264



I chose this scene because of sound/continuity. There are three things going on simultaneously (a voiceover/skydiving/piano scene with the sound) and yet the continuity isn’t interrupted. It’s a particularly nice ending sequence, as she does one rather mundane task and one daring one (and yet the mundane task would seem to require arms/hands while the daring one doesn’t) while the music (“Ave Maria”) accompanies the uplifting tone of the narration.


Written Response Part 1:

I loved the message of Right Footed a lot, I even cried a few times during the film. Although the cinematic techniques were lacking, the story more than made up for it. Because Right Footed was a documentary, and it had to be filmed without planning out each shot, the focus was more on the story than the cinematography. The first few minutes of the film were created with old video clips and photos, so the quality of the film was designed to highlight the clips rather than contribute to the artistic effect. The second part of the movie was shot mostly on the go, without lights or sets or professional gear (other than the camera), and was very true to typical documentary standards. Despite that, there was one scene that was absolutely stunning: the wedding. Jessica Cox’s wedding was a major turning point for the film and marked the point where the film transitioned from the past to present. Jessica had invited three of her mentees (that were also born without arms) to her wedding to show them that their disability didn’t detract from their ability to find true love and get married. None of the wedding was staged and so the conversations between the girls were realistic and brief, but it had a certain light whimsicality that was stunningly beautiful and emotionally crushing. Most of the audience was teary throughout the entire scene. The most touching part though, was during the throwing of the bouquet. Jessica feeds her new husband some cake with her feet and then goes to throw the bouquet. A couple girls scuffle for it, and then one of the mentees (who was doubtful about being able to find love before meeting Jessica and attending the wedding) rises above the crowd clutching the bouquet between her neck and shoulder.

Written Response Part 2:

Pick one scene and analyze it through the lens of class: The film was really aimed at ability awareness and disability rights, so other core identifiers like race/class/socioeconomic class were really glossed over. Like the fact that Jessica grew up in an upper-middle class home wasn’t addressed at all, despite the fact that her class was what enabled her to have the kind of lifestyle where she could learn how to fly an airplane, drive a car, and travel to speak to disabled children. There are many disabled children who grow up without the opportunity to wear prosthetics, or have caretakers, or mentors. Jessica haIMG_9043d all of the above and that was something that wasn’t mentioned at all in the film. There’s one particular arc in the film that’s about Jessica learning to fly and there’s one scene where she flies solo for the first time. She originally had been commuting to another state to take flying lessons, but after finding an air coupe that didn’t require the use of feet pedals, she was able to commute to a field much closer to home. The privilege of having dispensable funds to spend on something like flying lessons is completely ignored (an extremely significant part of the experience considering that she received a Guinness World Record for it).
Pick another scene or the same scene and analyze it through the lens of representations of ethnicity and race: The question of race is always interesting in an international context. Jessica travels to Ethiopia and the Philippines where she seems to float through poverty and crisis-stricken neighborhoods and situations without coming up against any racial barriers. The same happens in the U.S.-based portions of the film. Despite the fact that Jessica interacts with exclusively White Americans, the topic of race isn’t broached at all. The focus stays firmly on ability. So while IMG_9163Jessica is a disabled woman of color, the only barriers she comes up against seem to be related to disability, though that’s not necessarily realistic. To be a disabled woman of color is to be on the bottom of the social hierarchy. Women of color (specifically Black and Latina women) are the lowest earners (though interestingly, demographically speaking, White and Asian families earn more than Black and Hispanic families–although I’m not sure about the reference frame of Hispanic for this particular article because the earnings for Spanish families are generally much higher than those of families from South and Central America–regardless of their race) and face lower hiring rates. On top of that, being disabled cuts your chances of being hired even further. The tunnel vision nature of Right Footed is particularly disheartening, considering that there are few, well-known, award-winning, household-name, motivational speakers for young people in the U.S. So in the various scenes where Jessica is talking to disabled youth, she sticks to the idea of ability, regardless of the differences of experiences that occur to various racial groups. The idea that intersectionality isn’t vital to this film seems to be a great oversight (in my opinion) because while the experience of being disabled is common for all of the students in the film, the way that it plays out in their lives is contingent on their core identifiers.

Pick another scene or the same scene and analyze it through the lens of gender: Jessica rarely (if ever) talks about the effects that her gender has on her life. Despite the fact that she is a minority in everything she does, gender is a topic that is completely avoided in the film. IntereIMG_9185stingly, there are few female motivational speakers (when Googled, the initial results show only one woman next to 8 men), few women politicians (with just 20% of the House and Senate being women), and even fewer women pilots (just 4.21% of all pilots in the U.S. according to this article by Air & Space). Despite Jessica’s improbable odds of being a female pilot, motivational speaker, and aspiring politician, the gender barrier isn’t discussed at all. Whether this gap was intended to keep the focus on ability, intersectionality is incredibly important, especially in situations that combine more than two core identifiers that are in the minority (or rather that don’t hold majority power). Especially because the way that each identifier presents in the presence of others is completely different. Specifically, when Jessica visits children in Ethiopia that are disabled, the majority of them are girls. They are locked in the house, unable to go to school, and also seen as worthless because they are girls. The two former points are emphasized through the cinematography and narration of the film, and yet the latter (which is an incredibly salient point) isn’t mentioned at all. The classroom that is filled with disabled children that aren’t able to go to school, has only girls. And yet no one comments on it. In this case, it’s not even a misrepresentation of gender, it’s just that it’s not mentioned anywhere in the film.







I prefer to work in watercolor and acrylic, but broke out the pencils for this project. It was created with regular Dixon Ticonderoga No.2 yellow pencils. The plane is the Ercoupe that Jessica flew in the first half of the movie. The “clouds” are shaped like right feet as an homage to the film. The stamp on the fuselage reads “ABLE” and the stabilizers are shaped like peace signs in commemoration of the CRPD.


Jessica Cox’s Website

Right Footed‘s Facebook, Twitter, and Website