Friday, August 31, 2012

$upercapitalist seeks fortune in Hong Kong and wreaks havoc

To listen to the KUCI Subversity Online podcast of our interview with actor, producer and script writer Derek Ting, click on: .
Derek Ting (as Conner Lee right) finds romance
with Kathy Uyen (left) as Natalie Wang in $upercapitalist

Blasting across the U.S. and into Asia is $upercapitalist, an independently produced drama that is intelligently written, exquisitely acted, fast-moving and fun to watch. It depicts a smart Asian American Cornell graduate and newly minted hedge fund trader, Conner Lee, sent to Hong Kong from New York to orchestrate the downfall of a major Hong Kong shipping conglomerate.

In a world where all bets are off and the only goal is making money, lots of it, in the frenetic global city of Hong Kong, these money makers, or $upercapitalists show contempt for locals while immersed in the the fast-moving expat world of fantasy and pleasure.

Yet Conner Lee (played ably by former CNN International Hong-Kong based producer Derek Ting, who also wrote the tight script and produced the film) finds his match in Natalie Wang (superbly played by UC Irvine Film & Media Studies and Economics graduate Kathy Uyen) who manages to turn this $upercapitalist into a caring human being. Believe it or not, this film offers up a stinging critique of the Darwinism inherent in capitalistic hedge fund trades. Wang ends up reminding Lee that life should not be just about making tons of money.

Uyen in 2009 won Vietnam's Golden Kite award for her supporting role in Victor Vu's Passport to Love. She was interviewed for Subversity two years ago about another acting role, in Fools for Love. In that interview, she recalled her days working in the UC Irvine Libraries as a student assistant in the multimedia resources center.

Derek Ting (Conner Lee) finally gets to meet Richard Ng (as Donald Chang)

For an independently-produced film, it is heartening to see many big name actors involved. Linus Roache (Batman Begins, Law & Order) stars as the evil Wall Streeter Mark Patterson while veteran Hong Kong actors Kenneth Tsang (A Better Tomorrow 2, The Killer) and Richard Ng (Winners and Sinners, Tom Raider) have key roles in the Hong Kong conglomerate Conner is taking on.

Tsang, who is currently working as the lead actor with Ang Lee on the latter's remake of Eat Drink Man Woman, acts as Victor Chang, the congenial yet conniving elder brother of the patriarch of the Hong Kong conglomerate.

Ng stars as the stoic CEO of this conglomerate who tries to keep the family business on a stable course as turmoil erupts around him.

On our Subversity Online interview yesterday, Ting delves into why they were able to make this film, for just around half a million dollars. He didn't charge himself a salary for being the lead actor, and friends of the production were able to line up impressive donations, including the use of a jet, a Bentley, and Macau casino locations (courtesy of mogol Stanley Ho).

One scene actually brought me to tears as I told Ting. So in addition to high finance intrigue there is an emotional side to this otherwise fast-paced film.

Ting conceived the script before the 2008 stock market collapse. According to the production ,notes, for research, Ting "visited the offices of various hedge funds, read a number of books such as, Hedge Hogging by Barton Biggs, Ugly Americans by Ben Mezrich, Hedge Hunters by Katherine Burton, and watched as many different finance movies available. The script draws from some of Derek’s favorite movies including Michael Clayton, Wall Street, Good Will Hunting, Star Trek (J.J. Abrams), Body Of Lies, and The Firm."

The notes also state: "$upercapitalist is one of the most diverse films to date. The film features African Americans, Koreans, Chinese, Japanese, South Asians, British, Easter Europeans, Vietnamese, Australians, Americans, Canadians, and several other ethnicities. And on set a number of small parts cropped up and the team had to pull actors from their own crew. The transportation supervisor Sydney Chan and Art Director Vicky Chow appear in the film."

Ting decided to take on the part of Conner Lee after a Hollywood producer, who happened to be Asian American, told him a Caucasian actor would make the project more viable. To his credit, Ting decided to put the lure of millions in check and took on the role of the lead actor himself, making the film much more interesting and true to the script he had labored on.

The film is directed by Simon Yin, a former MTV and NBC director and founder of the Hong Kong-based Bamboo Star, an advertising campaign company.

$upercapitalist opens in Southern California this evening at 7 pm at the new Laemmle Theater, the NoHo7, 5240 Lankershim Boulevard North Hollywood, CA 91601, with Q&A with Derek Ting & Kathy Uyen to follow the screening. NoHo7 is conveniently located right off the Metro Red Line. Ticket information.

The film opened in New York and Washington D.C. earlier this month. In addition to selected forthcoming screenings in the U.S. (San Diego, Palo Alto, Berkeley, San Francisco) and in Asia (expected openings in Hong Kong and Singapore in October), the film is available for online viewing via VOD on various platforms, including simultaneous USA/CAN Cable VOD, Amazon and iTunes stores in Japan, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Macau, Malaysia, Philippines, Thailand, Vietnam, as well as UK, Australia, New Zealand and Scandinavia.

Update 4 September 2012

See also interview on CNTV- Daniel C. Tsang.

Monday, August 27, 2012

Remembering Joan Wang

Update 9/26/2012: A Powerpoint look back at Prof. Wang's life, shown at the memorial service in Tapei, is available for download. Also, NTNU colleague Prof. Joan Chang's account of Prof. Wang's last moments is posted on the NTNU history department memorial page.

Revised 8/28/12; see also obituary update below...

Historian Joan S.H. Wang [王秀惠 or Wang Shiow-Huey], who was suddenly stricken ill and collapsed 18 August 2012 while at an international conference in Manila, and passed away the next day, was a renowned Taiwan scholar of Chinese overseas. She was 52.

Just this past February, she had co-led a delegation visiting UC Irvine and other universities with ethnic studies collections, but I was tied up with a data curation workshop and missed their visit.

Joan Wang listens attentively at UCI Libraries' Southeast Asian Archive, February 2012. Photo credit: Eric Chang.

I was lucky enough to visit Taipei in late March this year, and honored to be invited by Joan's colleague in Chinese overseas studies, Edwin Yang, to speak on ethnic Chinese in Vietnam as portrayed in Hong Kong films, before a graduate seminar at their institution, National Taiwan Normal University. After the class, we all gathered at a nearby Japanese restaurant, where Prof. Wang joined us.

Joan in 1996 completed her graduate work in history at Carnegie Mellon with a dissertation, " 'No Tickee, No Shirtee': Chinese Laundries in the Social Context of the Eastern United States, 1882-1943."

Her published articles in English include:

"Race, Gender, and Laundry Work: The Roles of Chinese Laundrymen and American Women in the United States, 1850-1950," Journal of American Ethnic History, 24/1 (Fall, 2004), 58-99.


"The Double Burdens of Immigrant Nationalism: The Relationship between Chinese and Japanese in the American West, 1880s-1920s," Journal of American Ethnic History (Winter 2008) 27/2, 228-58.

Joan Wang (center) flanked by NTNU colleague Edwin Yang and myself,
at Japanese restaurant, Taipei, March 2012.

After my trip, Joan and I managed to exchange some emails on her research, with her expressing thanks for locating "rich" materials for her research. She asked me: "Please keep an eye for me". At her death she was engaged in researching a timely topic, the disputed Tiaoyutai (Senkaku) Islands. Her specific focus was Chinese students in America and their past activism over the issue. She was looking forward to coming to California to delve into the research materials on the Tiaoyutai student movement but alas, this work will have to be taken on by others.

Web tributes are beginning to appear online. A Malaysian scholar pens this online tribute in Chinese.

I am sad I will not be able to see her again. Services take place Saturday, 1 September 2012, at 2-4 pm at Taipei Second Funeral Parlor [台北市立第二殯儀館]. - Daniel C. Tsang.

Obituary from the International Society
for the Study of Chinese Overseas

Announcement From: PROF. LEO SURYADINATA, ISSCO President

It is with great sadness and profound regret that we announce the sudden demise of our colleague Dr. Joan Wang (王秀惠), Professor of History at the Taiwan Normal University on August 18, 2012. She was just 52 years old (1960-2012). She finished delivering a paper at the recent conference on “Chinese-language education and teaching in a Globalizing Southeast Asia” jointly convened by the Confucius Institute of Ateneo de Manila University and ISSCO. After the lively open forum where she animatedly answered the questions, people went up to her to shake her hands, but she couldn’t stand up and eventually collapsed. She was then rushed to the hospital but unfortunately passed away the next day despite desperate attempts to save her, putting her on life support. She is survived by her husband, Dr. Wu Chi-Sheng, a professor in Chemical Engineering at the National Taiwan University and daughters Emily and Kimberly.

Prof. Wang had attended almost all of our ISSCO conferences. She was very conscientious in all her work. We have certainly lost a very dedicated and fine scholar on Chinese overseas. Let us all pray for her eternal peace and strength for the family she left behind.

A memorial ceremony of Prof Joan Wang Shiow-Huey, initiated by the family and National Taiwan Normal University, will take place at 2-4pm on Saturday, Sept. 1st in the Taipei city 2nd funeral house. We hope our ISSCO members in Taipei will attend the ceremony on ISSCO’s behalf.

ISSCO members who knew her and wish to write tributes or expression of sympathy can send them to by August 31 and we will collect them before forwarding to her family prior to the memorial service.

Dr. Joan Wang Shiow-Huey was born in Taiwan, on August 30, 1962. Her research interests include history of Chinese Overseas, gender, and Chinese education, on which she published two scholarly books, numerous journal articles and book chapters, while presenting her work in many countries.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Shattering Israel's Image of Democracy

To listen to a separate KUCI Subversity Online podcast of the Ben White's talk, click on: .

Israel likes to present itself as a democratic state among the nations of the Middle East. But behind this facade well pushed by the government's spin doctors is a dark reality for the Palestinians suffering under Israeli occupation. Freelance journalist and author Ben White came to University of California, Irvine this past May and presented this talk on "Shattering Israel's Image of Democracy." His talk took place during the Muslim Student Union's annual Palestine Liberation Week. Ben has written for many publications including the Guardian.

His latest book is Palestinians in Israel: Segregation, Discrimination and Democracy (Pluto Press, 2012). In 2009 he authored Israeli Apartheid: A Beginner's Guide.