Day Three and Four – Saturday (10/17) and Sunday (10/18): In this second part of The San Diego International Film Fest coverage (part one found here), two feature films focus on the effects of bullying that Asian and Asian American youth face today.
Here are the two features (the first one is a comedy and the other is a very intense drama):
THE MISEDUCATION OF BINDU is one of the quirkiest films of the year. With an Indian American woman lead and director, it speaks to a one-of-a-kind coming-of-age story Indian American women deserve, yet still rarely see onscreen. It is reminiscent of this Spring’s Netflix premiere, Never Have I Ever created by the Indian American icon, Mindy Kaling. BINDU is also produced by the Duplass Brothers, so you just know it would be: Different. Odd. Weirdly funny. And painfully relatable.
Bindu is having a hard time. In, well, life really. And in all her adolescent awkwardness. Sometimes you don’t know if you should laugh with her, or cry from secondhand embarrassment because, you too, have been There.
She just lost her father. She doesn’t like school. She wants to test out of high school. She needs money to take said test. She’s taken bets. She’s getting high. Oh, to top that off, she’s being majorly bullied. And…slut-shamed????
With David Arquette in the supporting role of her step-father, BINDU is a strong independent comedy that captivates not just your typical teenage awkwardness of not “fitting in,” but the awkwardness of not fitting in solely because of your cultural heritage and background. And how that literally affects every single aspect of your life. Especially (high) school.
If you were ever an Asian nerd in high school and in life, be sure to catch this one and and be prepared to relate. Awkwardly. Painfully.
VICTIM(S) (Malaysia) – This is a social commentary about the power of media, specifically, social media. How social media is this giant that has all the power: the power to transmit information to the masses, the power to communicate what’s happening in record time the second it happens, and even the power to destroy someone’s life with the click of a button. VICTIM(S) ties this power that social media has to bullying and the effect it has on the powerless, hammering down on the consequences and what causes a ripple effect in a cycle of violence which, unfortunately, in this story seems endless and almost infinite.
There’s the rich, friendless nerd, the guy with an abusive step-father who unleashes his anger towards others because of his own pain, but also because of Another Thing; and then there’s the girl who gets slut-shamed by girls her age and gets leered at by the boys.
There’s a lot of clichés and they are important in setting up the story and the context behind everyone’s actions. However, by the end, almost every character seems to have fallen into their own stereotypes and have found it hard to break out of it.
There were a lot of difficult scenes to watch. More than I can count. It is a gripping, horrific tale, a powerful story for a directorial debut. A very important story to be told, for sure. It’s a very difficult but important watch, and I will admit to fast-forwarding some of these scenes because it really was just too much to stomach. I do believe that this leaves the audience feeling helpless – like a bystander effect. They’ve definitely raised awareness. But what now? What next?
While I do think think that these stories are all very much important to be told, I’d like to believe that there are countless other facets to an Asian woman’s story; there are many other ways to empower women, especially Asian women, without them needing to suffer a #MeToo tale for us to know that she earned or deserved her independence and freedom.
(/end Day Three and Day Four coverage)
The other two features, both Official Selections, featured at this past week’s San Diego International Film Fest are Japan’s TWICEBORN and the Oscar-runner up, NOMADLAND, starring Academy Award winning actress Frances McDormand and directed by Chloé Zhao. Both films premiered on Day One of the Fest which was Oct. 16th. TWICEBORN was available to stream LIVE @ the scheduled virtual film fest and NOMADLAND premiered at the drive-in theater screenings.