Asian-American Filmmakers to Know

Chloe Zhao

Photo by Gage Skidmore via Wikimedia Commons

Photo by Gage Skidmore via Wikimedia Commons

Are you familiar with the top Asian-American filmmakers in Hollywood? We wanted to shine a light on some incredible artists making films today.

Chloe Zhao

If you didn’t already know Chloe Zhao for her raw, emotional 2017 film The Rider, she probably made it onto your watchlist with this year’s Nomadland. Nominated for Academy Awards for Best Director, Best Picture, Best Adapted Screenplay and Best Film Editing, Nomadland is a modern drama-Western starring Frances McDormand. It tells the story of older Americans living in cars after the Great Recession:

Zhao also has a Marvel film, Eternals, which will be released this November. She says she struggled for a while post-recession when it seemed like people only wanted cheap horror movies, but she stayed true to what she was passionate about.

“In this industry, if you’re not honest about who you are, you’re going to attract people that you don’t want to be working with anyways,” Zhao told The Atlantic.

“By being authentically who you are, you might be a little slower in becoming successful, but you’re going to be slowly gathering people who are your tribe, your kinda folks.”

Lee Issac Chung

Lee Issac Chung has been making films since his 2007, when his debut feature Munyurangabo was an Official Selection at the Cannes Film Festival. But he’s now become a household name with Minari, which tells the story of a Korean family that moves to a overwhelmingly white town in the rural South. It won Best Foreign Language film at the Golden Globes (despite being an American film by an American director), and is now up for Best Picture at the 2021 Academy Awards.

Inspired by his own childhood, Chung says he started writing the film by going to the library and jotting down memories.

“Immigration stories are family stories,” he says. “What often gets overlooked in that story is the fact that a lot of that is happening due to the feeling of love, that feeling of a desire to sacrifice for each other.”

Destin Daniel Cretton

Known for powerful dramas such as Just Mercy and Short Term 12, filmmaker Daniel Destin Cretton was born in Hawaii and moved to San Diego, California, to attend film school.

He too is working on a film for Marvel: Shang-Chi will be released in July.

“We need more movies and more stories that continue to show characters of every ethnicity in ways that we have not seen them before,” Cretton said at the Toronto Film Festival. “We are trying to create something [with “Shang-Chi”] that reflects the Asian American and Asian experience today. There are a lot of stereotypes that I hope our movie helps to break.”

Shang-Chi is his first film with heavy action and VFX, but his former collaborators convinced him to embrace the challenge. “I’m learning so much,” he says.

Have you seen the films by these Asian-American filmmakers? Tell us what you thought by commenting on our Instagram page!

In The Industry