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This is the story of two men who are not exactly what they seem. Their sweet and ideal relationship might not entirely be the work of fate and when the truth is revealed, they have to face a harsh and dangerous reality.
Front Cover is about a gay New York City fashion stylist, Ryan, who detests and rejects his Asian upbringing. He is given an assignment to style Ning, a foreign actor, for an important photo shoot. After a rocky start, an unlikely friendship develops between them leading Ryan to examine his identity and make a major decision about an enticing new path for his life and career.Written by
Two men, Ryan and Ning are complete opposites, but together, they learn that human identity runs skin deep.
Each character is relatable in a different way.
Jake Choi and James Chen's portrayals of Ryan and Ning were very relatable and authentic. It was interesting to watch the character development since both of them had initially possessed or at least exuded a certain level of outer confidence although very different levels of confidence at the beginning of the film. This was apparent in their fashion and clothing choices throughout the length of time we get to spend with them. Ryan's fashion being an assortment of button up shirts and ankle length pants or capris, a fashion style seemingly considered to be more westernized while Ning's fashion sense is often a Chinese shirt with a medium-to-high neck collar or a silk robe which is more of an Asian style.
However, the story definitely shifts in perspective for both of the characters and for the viewer as Ryan and Ning become more and more transparent about their insecurities, flaws and fears, Ryan's insecurity being that he'll be treated differently or less of an important person if he discloses any information about his Asian heritage. Ning's insecurity on the other hand, isn't as obvious as Ryan's, but certain hints like Ning being surrounded by a group of familiar people with a similar Asian life experience suggest that he hasn't yet adapted to the western culture. It seems like the focus of Ryan's story, specifically, is on finding that balance that Ning seems to have when it comes to accepting his ethnic background while Ning's narrative is focused more on building up his confidence to accept his own sexuality. In both scenarios, these two men are seeking some kind of balance in their lives and it provides viewers with two different perspectives. Maybe, this is suggesting that we should take the time to listen to other people's perspectives on the world rather than being stuck in our own miniature worlds, so that we can gain a greater understanding of ourselves. In this way, once we see both of their true selves and find out that they also have their own set of insecurities, their stories and experiences become relatable to us and that feeling of uneasiness and not fitting in and/or even being bullied, I think, is one of universal experience.
Front Cover surfaces stereotypes, but doesn't compromise humor and sensitivity.
In regards to how this film dealt with stereotypes surrounding the Asian and Asian American identities, Ray Yeung, the director of the film, incorporated existing, modern-day stereotypes such as Asians always having to eat only Asian food and Asians only hanging out with other Asians, just to name a few. The story was told in an inventive way that utilized humor in between scenes to give the film a light- hearted, balanced feel while still being culturally sensitive to both identities. Yeung uses just enough stereotypes that it doesn't in any way make it seem like he's taking it too far. Also, in no way does it pose as a distraction from the overall story of the film.
Front Cover is definitely unique in its' approach when bringing up the conversation of race and racial stereotyping compared to conventional and in many cases, extremely offensive and one- dimensional portrayals of Asians and Asian American people in mainstream media. Although Front Cover isn't the first film, it is certainly one of few films that actually portrays Asians and Asian Americans in an accurate light and that is refreshing to see.
This film shows that there is more to a person than the superficial.
I was pleasantly surprised when I watched Front Cover at the 2015 Hawai'i International Film Festival (HIFF). To be honest, I initially went in slightly skeptical about this film, thinking that it would be another one of those sappy love stories about two gay men, except with a new, modern spin that comments on issues about some of the common Asian stereotypes that we see in today's media. However, as the plot continued building on itself, I found that this film was more about seeing the intrinsic qualities of a person behind all of the superficial– appearance, clothing, etc. and if there was anything to take away from this film, it was firstly, to see people for people, regardless of race, ethnicity, social class or any other social constructs that exist. Front Cover was definitely one of those movies that really made me think once I exited out of the theater and it is as transparent and real as the characters are when it comes to talking about race, racial stereotypes, sexuality and human identity; and hopefully, this film can open up a comfortable space where we are no longer afraid to talk about such issues.
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