Indie film that examines the Asian fetish to screen at Slamdance in January

‘Carnal Orient’ deliberately poses more questions than gives answers. Photo by Natasha Lee

‘Carnal Orient’ deliberately poses more questions than gives answers. Photo by Natasha Lee

Carnal Orient,” a short film that addresses the stereotyping of Asian women as sex objects, will screen at the esteemed Slamdance film festival in January, actress-producer Camille Mana announced.

“The festival just announced us in the program lineup on The Wrap and Indie Wire last week,” she said of the festival for emerging independent filmmakers. “We are excited for our inclusion.”

The synopsis of the Kickstarter-funded film revolves around a dark and strangely surreal snapshot of sexual desire aimed at the exotic. In a dirty kitchen someplace, somewhere, a disgruntled cook prepares a meal for his diners. Meanwhile, men inside the restaurant grow increasingly hungry and impatient. As the cook presents exotic, colorful dishes, the men respond with gusto and fervor. Suddenly, a beautiful, mysterious Asian woman arrives, inciting the guests’ appetites further. Their desire for her and the food become conflated. The woman proceeds to give them a spectacular show—but she’s not so easily consumed.

The genesis of the film was a Los Angeles brunch wherein film studies Prof. Mila Zuo griped with friends about an “idiotic” music video called “Asian Girlz” that had recently gone viral.

“It was yet another example of the hyper-sexualization and objectification of Asian women in Western media,” she said at the time.

Frustrated about the lack of visibility of Asian artists and films created by Asian women, Mila set out to collaborate on a film project to try to “answer back” to these stereotypical images. After curating a treatment and storyboard alongside musician Angela Seo, she approached college friend Camille Mana to come on board to helm the project.

With different backgrounds, the trio brings their own particular skillset.

Mila is currently an assistant professor of film studies at Oregon State University. She received her Ph.D. from UCLA’s Department of Film, Television, and Digital Media in 2015. Both her video work and research address issues of gender and race in cinema and media.

Angela is a member of the art-rock music group, Xiu Xiu. Born in South Korea, she moved to Los Angeles at the age of 8. She has lived in the San Francisco/Bay Area, Berlin, Seoul, New York, Nairobi, and the South. After touring extensively, she has returned to Los Angeles where she writes music, plays live, and works on myriad music video projects.

Camille, who is of Filipino and Chinese ethnicities, originated the title role in the world premiere of “Asuncion,” written by and starring opposite Oscar-nominee Jesse Eisenberg Off-Broadway to rave reviews. Her acting credits include “Cake” with Jennifer Aniston, “Smart People” (Sundance/Miramax) with Dennis Quaid, “College” (MGM) with Drake Bell, “Norman” opposite Dan Byrd, Adam Goldberg, and Oscar-Nominee Richard Jenkins, “Speed-Dating” with Chris Elliott, “High School” (Sundance) starring Adrien Brody, Colin Hanks. She is a series regular on the syndicated sitcom “One on One.”

The film’s Kickstarter campaign proved a success. The shoot took place in two distinct locations secured via friendship and favors, one set built from scratch inside a downtown warehouse.

“As with every independent film, this project would not have come to fruition without the indentured servitude of 35+ creative folks on set, in addition to 170+ passionate crowdfunders who believed in a film that explored the nightmarish undertones of ‘Asian fetish,” the producers said in a statement.

Let’s hear from the creative team.

Mila Zuo, Director/Writer.
“There have been many efforts to combat Asian stereotyping in American media, but I wanted to see what happens when we visually and sonically overload those stereotypes, bringing them to their logically absurd conclusion. Designing the shots and editing around provocative displeasure, I hoped to reveal the nightmarish undertones of seemingly innocuous racial generalizations. This film deliberately poses more questions than gives answers, approaching the subject of neo-Orientalism and Asian fetishization through bodily appetite and desire.”

Angela Seo, Composer/Writer.
“It goes without saying that music and sound can dramatically alter the context of visual images. We wanted to heighten and challenge the rhythm, noise–the aural weight–of the images in this film. What has resulted is not necessarily conventional. Instead it can often feel challenging, heavy, and even absurd. And sometimes, that’s exactly what the story calls for.”

Camille Mana, Producer.
“Having been in entertainment now for 15+ years, I have had to confront some some up close and very personal realities about what it means to be a woman of ethnicity onscreen. As an Orange County teenager beginning my acting pursuits, it wasn’t until experiencing the Hollywood casting process that I truly realized I am Asian. Whoa. Until that point, my naiveté had led me to believe that hard work and talent in the end… wins. That fitting into narrowly curated corners of what an Asian female is in a Hollywood storyline would not be a struggle for an actress whose essence and bone structure don’t match the limiting checkboxes prescribed.”

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One Comment

  1. orenkomp R. wrote:

    hey there. i am an asian girl. i have fully experienced the typical asian fetish guy. it happends all to often. its nice for the attention but its something i sort of have radar for. i like a guy that has a little more substance than just a guy who likes asians. haha tons of guys ask me for my pictures online. i often oblige.

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