The Boxer | KCET
I came upon "The Boxer" while scanning the Los Angeles Asian Pacific Film Festival's site. This short film piqued my interest because of the stills, the photography was stunning. I am always drawn to tight cropping and sultry moods.
As I watched a preview of the short film, I was drawn to the interplay between the Grandson (Teddy Chen Culver), his Mother (Elizabeth Sung) and his Grandfather (Jim Lau). Not knowing Teddy, I still felt a strong connection because of his experience with his family; you can take the Asian out of Asia, but you can't take the Asia out of an Asian. The short will be showing at the festival, just coming off from its Grand Prize win for Digital Shorts from CAPE/Spike TV.
I sent Teddy three questions; when I wrote them out, I found that I was asking myself the same questions about my heritage and the way I was motivated to succeed by my immigrant parents.
This story is universal, one generation denying the past, while the other searching for the future. Why did you choose to base it on an Asian family?
My family is Chinese, and I grew up Chinese-American so naturally I see the world through this lens, and I try to be aware of Chinese cultural values and family relationship dynamics. This story illustrates the conflict between the Eastern way (Grandpa and May), and the Western way (Toby), more specifically, the different way that Chinese youth care for their elders.
What was the inspiration for this story?
This story is based on a conversation with my aunt as she described to me her efforts to rehabilitate my ailing Grandmother (her mother). My grandmother had quadruple bypass surgery and was told by doctors to change her diet and exercise. So my aunt, a physical therapist by occupation, performed muscle strength and coordination exercises with my Grandmother who resentfully complied. But she quickly grew tired of the rehab and so upset at my aunt for pushing her to change, that she refused to go any further. My aunt was forced to back off and let my Grandmother recede back to her unhealthy habits, living her last days eating poorly and bedridden.
I was shocked by my aunt's obedience to her mother's demands and by the absolute authority Chinese elders have over their children. Although my aunt was only trying to do what was best for her mother, helping to revive her health and strength, my aunt had to ultimately respect her mother's desires...it is her cultural duty as a Chinese daughter...even if that means watching her own mother's health rapidly deteriorate.
But because I was born and raised with Chinese-American values, I believe that if your mother doesn't want to eat right and exercise then you force-feed her and drag her out of bed kicking and screaming. So naturally, this is the viewpoint I gave the character Toby who literally fights for his Grandfather's life.
My grandmother recently passed away. She eventually lost all muscle strength to atrophy, and could not even sit up in bed. If she had pushed herself to exercise, she would have lived longer. Unfortunately, her story did not end the way this movie does. Through story we sometimes see the world as we'd like it to be.
Despite his Grandfather's anger, the Grandson cares for him; and he pushes his Grandfather to acknowledge his past, because he wants to move forward to his own potential.
Do you see this as a metaphor for our own generational gap? That the immigrant has to see their full own potential so that their children can reach their's?
I did not intend to create a metaphor but of course I appreciate the interpretation and I can see how it applies to this story and my life, so I must have unconsciously tied in this theme. My mother immigrated from Taiwan via academic scholarship to an American college. At that time, scholarship was the only way a student would be allowed to leave Taiwan. You couldn't even get a travel visa back then.
And once she arrived in the states, her tireless work ethic propelled her quickly up the corporate ladder and she was able to provide my brothers and I with a very comfortable life in a safe neighborhood attending top schools. She's the epitome of an immigrant reaching her full potential. And as I stand in awe of my mother's success, I do feel compelled to exemplify the same hard work and strength of character that she's demonstrated. Her success has empowered me to take risks as an artist because she's provided a foundation of love and support for me to fall back on and launch from to venture out.
A role model like her has a profound affect on future generations and this is clearly reflected in my story about a misguided Grandson needing the inspiration of a mentor, in this case his Grandpa. Toby desperately needs to believe that this old man hasn't given up, because if he has, that may indeed cripple Toby's chances at success. Thank goodness my mother never gave up, or else my chances could have been crippled too.
"The Boxer" will premiere at the Asian Pacific Film Festival on Saturday April 30th at 7:30pm at the Laemmle Sunset 5.
About the filmmakers:
Teddy Chen Culver (Writer/Director/Editor/Actor)
Bay Area born, Teddy Chen Culver passed on collegiate baseball scholarships to attend Cornell University and then worked as an actor starring in numerous film, theater and TV shows, most recently FOX's HOUSE, NBC's THE EVENT and LAW & ORDER: LOS ANGELES.
As a writer, Teddy won the Grand Prize for CAPE/Spike TV's Digital Shorts contest for his screenplay The Boxer. The award enabled him to star and film this personal story as his directorial debut.
David Au (Director/Editor)
Born and raised in Hong Kong, David Au moved to the US in 1996 to attend University of Wisconsin, Madison, studying Theater & Drama and Journalism. In 2002, he moved out to Los Angeles and attended Los Angeles Film School, focusing in Directing and Cinematography.
His thesis film that he wrote and directed at L.A. Film School called, Fresh Like Strawberries, a short film about a middle-aged Asian American mother striving to live while juggling in between an obnoxious husband and a young gay son, premiered at San Francisco Asian American Film Festival in 2004, and went on to play in a number of film festivals including L.A. Short Film Festival, VC Film Festival, NewFest and many others. It was also picked up to air on MTV/Logo cable channel in the fall of 2008.
Besides directing, David is also a film editor. His credits include two upcoming feature films Make A Movie Like Spike which just premiered at Santa Barbara Film Festival 2011and August. He also edited the award-winning short film Steam in 2009, which has picked up the prestigious 2009 Iris Prize in Cardiff, UK.