A-Town Boyz: A Feature-length Documentary
A-Town Boyz is a feature-length documentary about the growing up experiences of Asian American men in Atlanta, Georgia, and the lure of gang life for youths who struggle to integrate into society. This was the official website for the film.
Content is from the site's archived pages as well as from other outside sources.
A-Town Boyz gives a rare insight into the lives of second generation immigrants who do not fit into the privileged ‘tiger’ class, grappling with complex questions about ethnicity and assimilation, lack of opportunity and a life of crime. Delving deep into the underground Asian gang culture of Atlanta, the film shows how non-achievers turn to gang life to find a kinship they never knew at home or school, and a means to make money they never had. In so doing, it captures an edge of frame world that explodes popular stereotypes of Asian Americans as people who are ‘good at math and play the violin.’ It is a bold and provocative film that offers real intimacy of experience, forcing the viewer to think about these issues through a human lens.
A-Town Boyz (Pitch Trailer #1)
Asian-American men from Atlanta, GA give testimony to growing up in working class, immigrant families in the U.S., addressing the lack of role models at home, the difficulty assimilating in school, and the camaraderie they found in gang life.
A-Town Boyz is a feature-length documentary about the growing up experiences of Asian American men in Atlanta, Georgia, and the lure of gang life for youths who struggle to integrate into society. It gives a rare insight into the lives of second generation immigrants who do not fit into the privileged ‘tiger’ class, grappling with complex questions about ethnicity and assimilation, lack of opportunity and a life of crime. Delving deep into the underground Asian gang culture of Atlanta, the film shows how non-achievers turn to gang life to find a kinship they never knew at home or school, and a means to make money they never had. In so doing, it captures an edge of frame world that explodes popular stereotypes of Asian Americans as people who are ‘good at math and play the violin.’ It is a bold and provocative film that offers real intimacy of experience, forcing the viewer to think about these issues through a human lens.
But beneath all this, A-Town Boyz is essentially a story of love, conflict and the search for identity. Shot in an observational style by the multi award-winning director Eunice Lau, and executive produced by Spike Lee, this is a story of the American Dream derailed. It navigates through the lives of two second-generation Asian immigrants and prominent members of Atlanta gangs. They are each at a crossroad in their lives, eager to break free of the gang, but struggling to find routes out. Over the course of three years, we follow them through a volatile and unpredictable period of their lives. Along the way, they talk about their past struggles, their present search for redemption and future aspirations for themselves and their children. Ultimately, the film is a vérité on the vulnerability of immigrant families in America - the problems they face due to poverty, cultural and linguistic barriers and the overt racism encountered at school.
I Am Producing A Film About Asian American Gangsters Of Atlanta
Grace Jung November 14, 2013
I Am Producing A Film About Asian American Gangsters Of Atlanta
Grace Jung November 14, 2013
Excerpt Testimonial from E.C.—A Korean-American Gang Leader of Atlanta, GA
I was [originally] raised in Bensonhurst—a predominantly Italian neighborhood… My parents came here 40 years ago. The Italian people didn’t like us. Italian kids would run in and shout, “Chink,” break up the whole store and run out. My parents worked 14-hour shifts. My mom would sit there crying, “It’s just too hard out here.”
But as I grew up I started becoming friends with them. As I got older, when I was hanging out with my friends one day, one of my best friends, he said, “Why don’t you go home, you stupid Chink.” I remember hurting. I remember thinking, “Wow, this is messed up. I’ve been friends with these guys for a long time and they say something like that.”
I remember the first day I went to school, this kid Louie grabbed my hat. They started throwing my hat around and I remember I had a fight with this guy. I cracked him in the face and hit him a couple of times. And after that, everybody wanted to be my friend.
I want them to understand that Korean kids are no pushovers. There’s a bad stigma to Korean kids—that we are just a bunch of nerds who study all day.
I’m very proud of who I am, my culture, my people, and if I hear that people are just abusing them, I’m going to go fight. This country is not built on a bunch of us studying and becoming doctors and stuff like that. Not everyone respects that as a kid. When you get abused, [you] grow up really messed up.
I thought I was Italian since I was a kid. I only realized I was Asian when the Italian kids made fun of me. That’s when I realized what I was.
I was born in this country. I saw it for myself. You could push a couple of us around but not all of us are going to stand there. Some of us are going to push back. And I push harder than most. I wasn’t scared.
For the last year and a half, I’ve been working on a documentary entitled A-Town Boyz, which is set in Atlanta, Georgia and follows the lives of young Asian-American men and their diverse lifestyles. I heard of the film in 2011, when it initially entered production with the generous help of filmmaker Spike Lee and his grant. The film is currently led by director Eunice Lau, a student Oscar recipient (region three, national finalist) for Best Documentary with her film Through the Fire, which documents women in leadership roles in Somalia. Eunice asked me to join her team Why Asian American Men?
Nobody ever asks for their point of view; Asian-American males are a neglected group in our society. The subjects of our documentary are all male, Asian American and either from or currently based in Atlanta. Our subjects have a diverse background but share some similarities: raised by immigrant parents who worked long hours (parental neglect at home) and lacked the knowledge to navigate the educational systems due to the language barrier (extra pressure on the children to figure things out alone at a very young age), and struggled with racism in their schools where Asian Americans were taunted for their looks, language, culture, etc.
In Atlanta, where the most prevalent demographic is split into two—black or white—the Asian Americans often times fall through the cracks. There aren’t many documented Asian-American stories that come from the South, or even in general. Eunice initially got the idea to shoot this film after hearing stories about the Asian American gang life that exists in the South through a mutual actor friend—an Atlanta native. Her stories on the kinship and unique lifestyle of her peers during her former years as a gang member led the team to Atlanta with a camera. We wanted to document the stories of parental sacrifices, racism during childhood and adolescence, and what work is being done today for progress—all in the great city where American civil rights activist Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was born.
as Producer in the summer of 2012. At the time, I was busy producing narratives, writing books, and my own feature script, but after seeing some of the footage she’d taken, I couldn’t turn it down. This movie isn’t about “Tiger” parents or their children. It’s not about stereotypes and successes. We’re filming Asian-American men who are coming of age, children to parents who admit to mistakes that came with their sacrifices, former and current gang members, and students who are looking ahead at their own future, uncertain of what’s to come.
Historically, many immigrants and children of immigrants have turned to the underground world for its communal and economic benefits (Italians, Irish, Israeli, Latino, etc.). Some of our subjects turned to gangs for a sense of kinship they never felt elsewhere. The upside to gang life was also the money. They preferred the ability to make large amounts of cash in just a day or two without the long hours at an undesirable workplace. Given the risks involved with this kind of lifestyle, a couple of our subjects have been in and out of prison. But over the course of two years of filming, some are now turning their lives around. One subject in particular has shown a tremendous change these last few months. (His story is especially compelling and we can’t wait to let the film show it.)
The main point we’re addressing with subjects like these is that they felt unheard and misunderstood by everyone. The lack of proper role models at home, school and in the media (a general lack of real Asian faces that are not embarrassing all of Asian Americans by perpetuating undesirable stereotypes that are easy to poke fun at or laugh at), these young men felt let down and alienated. Their introspective testimonies, and interviews with their parents, spouse, children and other members of their community show us a side of their identity that has gone unexplored up until now, and raise important questions on what we can do to make sure that the children and parents of immigrant Americans today make progress. The stories that our subjects tell are unique. They show us another kind of life and the wounds that led to it.
Hope, Progress and Support
In order to show the advances that educators and social workers of Atlanta are making, we’re documenting the younger generation of Asian Americans in Atlanta who come from immigrant and/or single mother households of low-income neighborhoods. One of these organizations is the Center for Pan Asian Community Center (CPACS) where staff members work with children and adults alike, including Asian and Hispanic families as well as with Burmese and Bhutanese refugees. Part of the great work that they do is provide counseling to children who have been touched by gang activity in some way, and advising immigrant parents on how to navigate the American systems for their children’s future. The nurturing aspect of CPACS is that the people who go there feel heard and that alone goes such a long way.
A-Town Boyz is currently in the final stages of production. Visit the website for more info: www.AtownBoyzMovie.com.
An aside: After reading the Thought Catalog article above, I decided to take a look at the book, The Face of Seung-Hui Cho by by Wesley Yang that was mentioned in the article. It's a small book of only 37 pages in print. I happened to read it on my kindle. This was the 1st of the kindle singles I have sampled, and it left me with a favorable impression of the category. An Amazon review puts it very succinctly: Yang puts his considerable talents to work in a wandering essay that purports to recall the sad story of school-shooter Seung-Hui Cho, but is in fact about much more. Throughout, Yang unleashes short, summary judgments so eloquent that it hardly matters whether you agree with him. Touching on indie rock, identity politics, or the artistic ossification of Nikki Giovanni, Yang's laser-guided cultural lens focuses the reader's attention equally on his own coming of age, his ostensible subject, and ourselves. --Jason Kirk
I have little in common with Yang since he tends to deal with the experience and treatment of the Asian-American male within the framework of contemporary America, and I happen to be a white woman. Yang draws from his own experiences to express what it's like growing up as someone "essentially unlovable", friendless and lonely. But the appeal of his writing is its unflinching honesty, originality, and Yang's own voice. Perhaps, too, it's that his common theme of the Outsider speaks to me personally. I think even more, though, is that for all of the rawness of his writings, he has the voice, the talent, of a real writer.
The other day as I was admiring a selection of cz rings during my lunch break at work, a friend, Sims, wanted to know if I had read anything of interest lately. I smiled and said I had just the thing for him to read, but first let me finish checking out these rings. Sims peered over my shoulder as I placed the cz ring order. I then told him to look up the author, Wesley Yang. He has four kindle books on Amazon. In 2018 his debut book, The Souls of Yellow Folk, was named by Publisher’s Weekly as one of the nonfiction books of the year. This collection of the author's published essays includes "The Face of Seung-Hui Cho", a terrifying meditation on racial grievance and male sexual resentment refracted through Yang’s identification with the Virginia Tech mass shooter. You can buy a kindle version of just The Face of Seung-Hui Cho, I said, but on the other hand you might just want to get the book. Interestingly, Yang has mentioned in some interviews how much he admires the craftsmanship of cz rings, much like the one I was buying. I haven't seen the book, but have read The Face of Seung-Hui Cho. Yang writes forcefully about the psychic pain of life as a racial minority in America. It's heavy, but I think you will like it.
I am waiting to get Sims' opinion about Wesley Yang and his writing. Will update this post later.
DIRECTOR - Eunice Lau
Eunice Lau, a Singaporean filmmaker based in New York City, is a recipient of the Spike Lee Fellowship 2012 and a graduating MFA candidate at New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts. Her story “A.I.” was shortlisted for the Sundance and Sloan Foundation Commissioning Grant in 2012, and she co-directed a TV pilot that was nominated at the New York TV Festival 2012. In the factual film genre, her documentary “Hero” on Thailand's political conflict was nominated for two awards at the Watersprite International Film Festival in 2012. More recently, "Through the Fire" a documentary set in Somalia and directed by Eunice, was awarded Best Documentary at the 2013 region three AMPAS Student Academy Awards in New York and was thereafter a national finalist.
CREATIVE PRODUCER - Grace Jung
Grace Jung (Creative Producer) is an award-winning writer and film producer. She's the creator of "Billo," an animated short film directed by Catherine Min, which won the National Board Review of Motion Pictures Student Grant Award in 2009 and screened at the First Run Film Festival. She is a published author in fiction, essay, poetry and translation. She is a former Fulbright scholar, and currently working on a feature narrative.
PRODUCER - Sarah Winfield
Sarah Winfield (Producer) is a filmmaker with a background in business, research and the arts. Her devotion to documentaries is formed of a longstanding belief in the power of film as a means for encouraging cross-cultural and inter-generational understanding. As co-founder of Delphin Films, Sarah’s media work has been featured in the Guardian, The Times and the BBC. She is also a founding member of the Cambridge Media and Film Academy (CAMFA) and Watersprite Film Festival. Most recently, she produced Through the Fire, an award winning documentary shot in Somalia and directed by Eunice Lau.
EDITOR - Yasu Inoue
Yasu Inoue is an award winning editor who has worked from feature film, documentary to film trailer. Although based in NYC, he often travels to where the work is.