A Quick Chat With LINSANITY Director Evan Jackson Leong

Story by Ada Tseng.

FIRST IMPRESSION OF JEREMY LIN:
There’ve been a few Asian American players that have come up [in the Bay Area], but none were as good as Jeremy Lin. And he’s not this 7-foot-6 center; he’s a point guard and a leader controlling the game, and you don’t see that all that often. And I remember watching him dunk — he’d do these amazing dunks! So even when we started filming his senior year at Harvard, I already knew it was a great story.

APPROACHING JEREMY ABOUT THE DOCUMENTARY:
He was very quiet and professional at first. We talked about God. What’s funny is — I have a mohawk, but I was wearing a cap to hide it, and at the end, he saw the mohawk peeking out from the back, and he was like “Whoa, you have a mohawk?” And I was like, “Yea, my girl told me to hide it just in case you were really conservative,” and he was like, “No man, that’s cool!” And then he sported a fauxhawk for a little bit after that.

JEREMY’S PERSONAL HOME VIDEOS:
Jeremy’s dad was like that guy from American Beauty, always recording everything. At first he gave us three hours of footage, and that was a lot, but then he gave us 30 hours of footage. [Laughs] We wanted to show a personal side of Jeremy that you don’t usually get to see in the media.

CURRENT PROJECT:
I’m working on a documentary on [YouTube makeup guru] Michelle Phan. They’re both underdogs, both Asian American, and both had strong obstacles to face. Asian Americans in general are often the underdog in the media, and it’s important to get [these stories] out there to inspire a new generation of Asian American kids.

This story was originally published in our Winter 2013-14 issue. Get your copy here

LINSANITY : Not Even A Multimillion Dollar NBA Contract Or A Feature Film Can Change Jeremy Lin

Story by Ada Tseng.

In 2012, basketball star Jeremy Lin lived the ultimate underdog story. As the then-23-year-old rose from obscurity — one minute, he was worried his short-lived NBA career was over, the next minute, he was on the cover of Sports Illustrated with the headline “Against All Odds” — Lin became more than an international sports hero. He embodied the hardworking Asian American icon that had been discriminated against and underestimated his entire life and was finally getting his opportunity to show the world what he could really do.

While his February 2012 streak caught everyone (including Lin himself) off guard, no one could have been more excited than the film team led by director Evan Jackson Leong, who happened to be shooting a documentary about Lin at the time. Leong had started production on the film back when Lin was a senior at Harvard university. Lin remembers, “I figured, worst case, we’d have someone compile all this footage and make a cool story, and maybe I’ll be able to show it to my kids and my grandkids one day.”

As January 2012 rolled around, Leong was ready to wrap up Lin’s story, but the only thing he was missing was a good ending. Lin not only gave them their ending, he elevated the stakes of the film more than any of them could ever imagine. What was envisioned as a low-key series of webisodes about one of the few Asian Americans in the NBA suddenly included footage of sports journalists bombarding Kobe Bryant with questions about Lin, David Letterman donning a Jeremy Lin jersey on the Late Show, and even President Obama claiming he knew about Lin way back when he was playing at Harvard. Narrated by actor Daniel Dae Kim, Linsanity: The Jeremy Lin Story screened at the Sundance Festival, had a theatrical release in October, and will be out on DVD January 4.

After the whirlwind that was Linsanity whisked Lin from the New York Knicks to the Houston Rockets in July 2012, the attention started to die down. A year later, the 25-year-old has, for the most part, remained out of the headlines, but in Taiwan, the homeland of Lin’s parents, the obsession continues. Giant Linsanity billboards can be seen all over Taipei, and as Linsanity producer Bryan Yang says in a new NBA video about Jeremy Lin fandom in Taiwan: “Linsanity as a phenomenon has not subsided. It’s as if it were February 2012 still. … It’s the Beatles, except modern-day in Taiwan.”

Each summer, Lin travels to Taiwan to teach at a youth basketball camp, as well as to share his testimony of the past year. At 2013’s “Dream Big, Be Yourself” youth conference in Taipei, he confessed that he temporarily lost control of his identity with the unexpected onslaught of fame.

“I talked a lot about the pressures of Linsanity and being caught up in who everyone else wanted me to be,” says Lin. “I addressed three main issues that draw people away from God — money, worldly success and human approval — and how I started to put my identity in basketball. I started to be consumed by the whole Linsanity thing.”

On what helps him keep his head on straight, he says, “I think it’s just constant reminders, going back to the Gospel message and understanding that it doesn’t matter how well I play or what I do on the court; at the end of the day, I’m still a sinner before God, and that’s all that really matters. I need His grace, His love, His forgiveness, and it’s about being diligent, spending time with God every single day and having that support network to keep you accountable.”

But that doesn’t mean Lin doesn’t have time to have fun. On his down time, he and his family and friends collaborate on comedy videos on his YouTube channel, which boasts videos with up to 4.7 million views and have featured everyone from popular YouTube stars KevJumba and Ryan Higa to basketball colleagues Steve Nash and James Harden.

“People can take three minutes and watch a funny video, and it’ll help them laugh and relax, but hopefully every video has a specific message behind it, too,” says Lin. For example, one of his latest videos, “You’ve Changed, Bro,” which spoofs the idea that Lin has let fame go to his head, ends with a passage from Romans 12:2a: “Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think.”

And on being considered a new Asian American sex symbol? The 6- foot-2-inch athlete, who has been quoted saying that his perfect girl would be “a faithful Christian” and have “a desire to serve other people [and] help with the underprivileged,” remains modest.

“I appreciate that people see me in that way, but it’s kind of something that I brush to the side,” he says. “I don’t think that’s ever been one of my goals or one of my focuses, but I’m still thankful that they see me in whatever light that they see me in.”

This story was originally published in our Winter 2013-14 issue. Get your copy here

A Closer Look at The VIRAL ASIAN STORIES of 2013

While it is true that Asian Americans don’t receive enough time to shine on mainstream media, we are far from silent. In fact, there were quite a number of Asian stories that went viral this year.

Comedy duo, The Fung Brothers decided to highlight 25 Viral Asian stories of 2013. If you watch this video and don’t quite know what they’re talking about, have no fear! As it turns out, we’ve written about many of these viral stories. Watch the video then click the links below for a more in-depth look at the Viral Asian stories of 2013.

 

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Kenichi Ebina won America’s Got Talent.
Japanese Dancer Kenichi Ebina Wins America’s Got Talent (READ HERE)
“Months ago, Kenichi Ebina’s audition performance for America’s Got Talent went viral. Ebina stunned the judges and viewers nationwide with his “dance-ish” performance that included the robot, some gasp-worthy matrix moves, and entertaining martial arts…”

 

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K-pop got popular.
KCON 2013 | Proof That Kpop Is Not Just For Koreans (READ HERE)
“The stage was covered with Caucasians, Latinos, African Americans, and various other non-Asian folk. Not only did East Asians show their presence, but Southeast Asians and South Asians did as well. Fans who clearly stated they were not Korean were singing every single word of their favorite songs and impressively showcasing the intricate dance moves to these songs. Yes, these fans took time out of their lives to memorize lyrics to Korean songs without actually knowing Korean. Now that’s dedication…”


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Asiana Airlines Crash

Flight 214 Crash Presents Opportunities for Racism (READ HERE)
Racist Halloween Costume Alert: Tragic Flight Crash Turned Into A Joke (READ HERE)
“With such a tragedy on our hands, you would think it wouldn’t be much to ask for some sensitivity with this issue, but more and more we find people using this opportunity to simply show racism and insensitivity…”


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Linsanity
 came out in theaters.
Linsanity Coming To A Theater Near You (READ HERE)
“Although many of us may have gone linsane back in 2012 when third-string guard, end of the bench player, Jeremy Lin became a new sensation, many fans and even sports professionals did not know much about him. Director Evan Jackson Leong and his crew began documenting Lin’s journey in basketball way before all the hype of Linsanity pushed him to stardom…”

 

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Julie Chen tells the world about her surgery.

Julie Chen Admits To Having Plastic Surgery To Look Less Asian (READ HERE)
Julie Chen Feels Hurt By Asian American Community (READ HERE)
“Chen explains that with her career on the line, she couldn’t see another solution. The decision became so weighty that she opened up to her parents about whether or not this surgery would be a denial of their culture. This led to a family divide where some members believed that Chen should be disowned…”



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Man sues wife for being ugly/ Family photo was fake.
Horrible Reaction To ‘Man Sues Wife For Ugly Children’ Hoax (READ HERE)
“According to multiple sources, a Chinese man named Jian Feng was “horrified” when his beautiful wife gave birth to an ugly child. He suspected his wife of an affair because he could not see how the two of them could create the child. After tests proved that it was in fact their child, the husband discovered that his wife had undergone surgery before they met…”


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Indian woman won Miss America.
Miss America Makes History with First Indian American Winner… But Not Without Racist Haters (READ HERE)
Top Five Reasons Nina Davuluri is Awesome (READ HERE)
“But not long after the coveted crown was placed on her head, Davuluri, who performed a Bollywood fusion dance routine for the talent portion of the competition, quickly became the focus of discriminatory and racist comments on various social media platforms. The 24-year-old aspiring doctor was referred to, among other things, as “Miss 7-11,” “Miss Al-Qaeda,” and as a “terrorist.” Some expressed their disappointment that an “Arab” who had performed “Egypt dancing” won Miss America, just days after the 9/11 anniversary. Some even retorted that a Miss America winner “should have to be American.””

 

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City urges nearby Sriracha factory to shut down.
Sriracha Factory Odor Causes Burning Eyes And Headaches (READ HERE)
“Residents have filed several complaints about burning eyes and constant headaches due to the intense and painful odor emitted by the factory. One family in the area stated that they were forced to move a birthday party indoors due to the strong odor…”

 

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Alison Gold loves Chinese food.

Offensive “Chinese Food” Video Made by Producers of Rebecca Black’s “Friday” Goes Viral (READ HERE)
“The guys who brought us Rebecca Black’s “Friday” are back and have unleashed a song that may very well beat their first viral phenomenon. Alison Gold is the face of this new troll video “Chinese Food” where she sings about her love for, you guessed it, Chinese food…”

 

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Typhoon Haiyan hits the Philippines.

7 Things You Should Know About Typhoon Haiyan, The World’s Strongest Typhoon Hits The Philippines (READ HERE) 
Heartbreaking Images: The Aftermath of Typhoon Haiyan (READ HERE)
“There are still bodies littering the sides of the roads that have not been collected. People are sheltering under whatever they can find. There’s a real sense of frustration among people because they don’t have enough food, they don’t have enough water.”

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(Photo courtesy of The Fung Bros.)

Linsanity: Coming to a Theatre Near You

Although many of us may have gone linsane back in 2012 when third-string guard, end of the bench player, Jeremy Lin became a new sensation, many fans and even sports professionals did not know much about him. Director Evan Jackson Leong and his crew began documenting Lin’s journey in basketball way before all the hype of Linsanity pushed him to stardom. This film follows his high school days where he led his team to a state championship, but was not recruited by any college scouts, to his time at Harvard, and finally to his NBA career with the Golden State Warriors, the New York Knicks, and now the Houston Rockets.

jlin copyThe movie allows the audience to get to know Lin on a more personal level. From the interviews to home-video footage of his childhood, we get to see Lin’s core values of faith and family and how they have shaped his personality and career. The film was released late January to various film festivals such as Sundance, SXSW. Hong Kong International, Asian American International, and CAAMFest. Ketchup Entertainment has acquired the rights to the documentary and it is now scheduled to premiere in over a dozen major cities, including Los Angeles, New York, Boston, and San Francisco on October 4.

LINSANITY LARGE SCREENER POSTERThis isn’t just a sports documentary, it’s a story of how one hard working humble man not only battled it out on the court, but also battled inherent and overt racism as an Asian-American player. Leong’s work and Lin’s story definitely makes for a captivating film for both sports and non-sports fans.