Oscar nominations reveal recognition of Asian American filmmakers

Asian Americans are breaking records, and this is just the beginning.

Lauren Vander Tuig, Freelancer

Six Asian Americans have been nominated for the first time in Oscars history. From actors to directors, Asian Ameicans have remained active within the film industry, yet their hard work and dedication is only now beginning to be given some time in the limelight.

In the past, Asian talent has most commonly been seen in the foreign film categories of the Oscars. Steven Yeun and Chloe Zhao shattered the glass ceiling with their nominations of the first Asian American for best actor and the first Asian American woman to be nominated for best director.  


Abel Vang, assistant professor of entertainment producing, is an independent filmmaker and winner of the Academy’s 2011 Nicholl Fellowship Award. At Biola, Vang mentors students in the cinema and media arts program and pushes them to be storytellers who know how to market to an audience. 

“It makes me feel heard. It makes us visible,” Vang said. 

The Academy’s recognition of Asian American talent brings about a turning point for diversity and inclusivity of stories other than that of traditionally white directed, produced and acted pieces of film. Last year, “Parasite” won best director and best picture, causing controversy in how none of the actors were nominated once.  

It’s not surprising to see Hollywood wanting our skills and talent, but not wanting our faces,” Vang said.  


Vang shares his own experience in the industry with the forceful whitewashing of storytelling when he was told by a management company to “go home and write an action sci-fi screenplay with a 25 to 35-year-old white male lead.” However, with the emergence of recent films such as “Parasite” and “Minari”, the general American public is being exposed to Asian American stories with different perspectives.  

Asians’ representation in film is evolving from a stereotypical sidekick or the subservient sex symbol to the lead protagonist. Asian characters are often painted as being a comedic punching bag for their accent or other harmful stereotypes. Asian women, in particular, are seen as being ethnic love interests, who are fetishized and exoticized for male fantasies.

Sena Shin, academic coordinator of CMA, feels that the stereotypical manner in which Asians are depicted on screen affects people’s assumptions of the entire race.    

Although there are definitely improvements being made, there is still a lot of progress to be made to break down these stereotypical notions,” Shin said. 

The stereotypes of Asians within American film is something that is heavily ingrained within American society’s view of Asians. The emergence and recognition of Asian American writers, directors and actors will breed accurate and intimate stories. This evolution of diversity in American film will represent a more accurate identity of Asian Americans. By allowing Asians to write and tell their own stories, orientalism and an ethnocentric view of Asians will be diminished within Hollywood. 

We are just in the beginning. We need more Asian American stories—as many as the diversity within our communities,” said Nancy Yuen, associate professor of sociology. 

While this year at the Oscars will be monumental and historic for breaking down racially exclusive walls in film, change is only getting started.

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