Tag Archives: film

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VIDEO: Full Trailer for ‘Dear White People,’ Co-starring Actress Naomi Ko

by JAMES S. KIM

Dear White People has been garnering buzz ever since it sold out all of its screenings at the Sundance Film Festival earlier this year, and with the release of the first full trailer, we can get a taste of what festival goers were raving about. Director Justin Simien’s satire, which is due in theaters on Oct. 17, follows four black students who attend Winchester University, a fictional, predominantly white school.

KoreAm earlier wrote about Korean American actress Naomi Ko, who makes her film debut in Dear White People as Sungmi, an art major with a lip ring who lives at a traditionally black residence hall, and hangs out with mostly African American students. Though Ko’s role is small, the film’s contemporary exploration of the nuances of racial identity on a college campus will no doubt resonate with Asian American audiences—as it did for the actress.

Dear White People really hit home, in the sense of what it’s like to be a minority in such a white world,” Ko told KoreAm last winter. “You may have a particular theme where somebody wants to touch one of the African American character’s hair. I feel like it’s very easy to switch that out and say, ‘Oh, where are you from?’ It’s a question that I’m asked many times, even though I was born in Minnesota.”

The plot follows activist Samantha White (Tessa Thompson), as she is unexpectedly elected the head of the black residence hall. When the college announces plans to diversify the hall, Samantha takes to the airwaves, using the campus radio show she hosts, called “Dear White People,” to protest the decision. She delivers biting PSAs such as, “Dear white people, please stop touching my hair. Does this look like a petting zoo to you?” and “Dating a black person to piss off your parents is a form of racism.”

The drama comes to a head when the college’s influential humor magazine hosts its annual Halloween party with a very ill-conceived theme: “Unleash your inner Negro,” which throws napalm onto an already unstable campus environment.

The film also stars Tyler James Williams, Brandon P. Bell, Dennis Haysbert and Teyonah Parris.

Film still by Ashley Beireis Nguyen

Sewol Documentary

Sewol Ferry Disaster To Be Made Into A Film

by JAMES S. KIM

A private committee in South Korea is raising funds for a documentary on the Sewol ferry disaster, according to Yonhap News. Director Im Jong-tae announced plans to release A Goose’s Dream on the first anniversary of the disaster, which would be April 16 next year.

The committee plans to raise 400 million won (approximately $393,000) through crowdfunding until Oct. 10. Around 300 million won will go towards production costs, and another 100 million won to advertising.

Im told the Korea Times that the two-hour film will delve into a variety of topics, from what actually happened during the sinking to the ongoing rescue efforts, as well as corruption in South Korean society as a whole. Im said film would also be a tribute to the victims.

The title of the documentary refers to a song performed by Lee Bo-mi, a student at Danwon High School who was one of the 293 people who died in the accident. She apparently had aspirations to become a singer. You can listen to a segment of Lee practicing the song below.

The Sewol sank off South Korea’s southwest coast on April 16 earlier this year, leaving 293 dead, many of them high school students who were on a field trip to Jeju Island. As of last Friday, 11 people remain missing as rescue efforts continue.

For more information on A Goose’s Dream, you can stay up-to-date with the film’s Facebook and Daum pages.

Image via Facebook

Wong Fu

YouTube Superpower Wong Fu Productions To Make A Movie

by JAMES S. KIM

For more than a decade, short-film-producing sensation Wong Fu Productions has made fans laugh and click “share,” raking in more than 2 million YouTube subscribers.

Now, they’re working on their biggest project yet.

Founders Wesley Chan, Ted Fu and Philip Wang announced their plans for their first feature film earlier this year, and after blasting past their initial goal of $200,000 on indiegogo, the principal cast was released last week.

“Our story takes place in a world where all relationship activity is documented and monitored by the Department of Emotional Integrity (DEI),” reads a description on the Wong Fu website. “Much like a credit score is given to represent financial responsibility, a relationship score is given to keep individuals accountable for the relationship activity and choices. The score is public for all to see, and affects various aspects of daily life.

In the film we follow two couples who are experiencing different challenges in their relationships. Seth and Haley are two high schoolers who are registering their relationship for the first time, and Ben and Sara, a former couple in their mid twenties who must meet again to settle an old report.

Through these two stories we are going to explore how love changes over time, and how to believe in your heart again after it’s been hurt.”

Aaron Yoo

Brittany Ishibashi

Brandon Soo Hoo

Victoria Park

Chris Riedell

Randall Park

Joanna Sotomura

Ki Hong Lee

Images via Wong Fu Productions

The Interview

North Korea Blasts Seth Rogen And James Franco’s ‘The Interview’

Hollywood rarely portrays North Korea in a positive light (see Red DawnOlympus Has Fallen and Die Another Day), but James Franco and Seth Rogen’s upcoming movie, The Interview, has touched a particularly sensitive nerve with the regime.

A spokesman for Kim Jong-un told the Telegraph that the comedy, starring Franco and Rogen, showed the “desperation” of American society in its “ironic storyline.” Two talk show hosts are tasked by the U.S. government to kill Kim, played by Randall Park, when they are granted an exclusive interview with the leader.

“A film about the assassination of a foreign leader mirrors what the U.S. has done in Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria and Ukraine,” said Kim Myong-chol, executive director of the Centre for North Korea-US Peace. Though he also said that the dictator would probably watch the film.

“In fact, President [Barack] Obama should be careful in case the U.S. military wants to kill him as well.”

In addition, Kim dismissed Hollywood films as being “full of assassinations and executions” and said British films are better and more realistic. Discounting Die Another Day, which was immediately described as “dirty and cursed” by state media, 007 still apparently remains a staple in North Korea.

“James Bond is a good character and those films are much more enjoyable,” he said.

Previews of The Interview have apparently attracted mixed reviews, and many have raised concerns the premise of the film.

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Why Does Every Blockbuster Have to Kill Off the Asian Guy?

He’s in Every Action Movie–But Not for Long: Meet the Expendable Asian Crewmember

From Godzilla to X-Men to Total Recall, why does every blockbuster need a single Asian guy to kill off?

by PAULA YOUNG LEE

Fans of the original Star Trek television series, which aired from 1966 to 1969, are familiar with the old trope of the expendable Asian crewmember. Every week, one or two unlucky marginal characters, wearing the red shirt of a Security Officer, would join a landing party that usually consisted of Captain James Kirk, First Officer Spock and Dr. Leonard “Bones” McCoy from the starship USS Enterprise. The trio would beam down to the planet’s surface along with the Expendable Crewmember—who would promptly get killed off by a space monster/mysterious sentient cloud/primitive hostiles. The Expendable Crewmember became such a routine part of the storyline that it was spoofed on the animated television show Family Guy, and became a running joke in the 1999 film Galaxy Quest, in which Sam Rockwell’s character, “Crewman no. 6,” is a nervous wreck named Guy, so forgettable to everyone that even he knows he’s doomed to die.

As little kid, I found it a bit odd that the Klingons always missed Kirk and hit the guy in the red shirt standing next to him. And as I got older, I couldn’t help but notice two strange trends beginning to pop up in Hollywood summer blockbusters: 1) Random storylines would detour to someplace in Asia for no particularly good reason, and 2) One useless Asian character—only one—would show up and stick around just long enough to make a vague impression as a villain. Then he or she would die at the hands of the good (white) guys, who would then march off victoriously into the sunset.

Now, it has been pointed out to me that the business of killing off villains is an equal-opportunity plot device, and Asian people are not being singled out for horrible deaths. Which is true. It’s long been the case that Hollywood casts ethnic minorities as bad guys so their heads can be blasted off. In horror films, there is also the bimbo rule, which requires hot blondes to get killed off first. This is neither racist nor sexist (see no. 7 on this list, John Cho, hot blond), but the norm. The Expendable Asian Crewmember is different from the phenomenon known as the “Asian sidekick,” whose ranks include Cato in the Pink Panther film series from the ’60s and ’70s and remade in 2006; Kato in the Green Hornet television series from the ’60s, remade as a film in 2011; Mr. Miyagi in The Karate Kid, 1984, remade and moved from California to China, 2010; and the mutant Yukio in The Wolverine, 2013. But the vast majority of blockbuster film franchises have no Asian characters in them at all. In general, both New York City and The Future are curiously free of Asians except for Maggie Q, whose time-traveling powers enable her to pop up briefly in Divergent, 2014. There are so few Asians in the galaxy inhabited by Star Wars that a hilarious blog, “You Offend Me You Offend My Family,” has scoured the entire franchise for signs of Asian life. The results were: one rebel officer, and a dubious claim that Admiral Ackbar, fearless cephalopod leader of the Rebellion, was “Asian-like.”

Which brings me to the 2013 Star Trek reboot, with Zoe Saldana as Lt. Uhura and John Cho as Lt. Sulu, plus loads of “Asian-like” aliens, including Vulcans. When the most diverse cast in a Hollywood summer blockbuster happens to be based on a television show that debuted a half century ago, it’s better to be the Expendable (Asian) Crewmember than not be allowed on board at all. But I’m hoping it won’t be another 50 years before Mr. Sulu not only takes the helm, but gets his own ship—and can star in his own film.

Here is a mere sampling of the Expendable Asian Crewmembers I’ve spotted over the years:

X-Men 2: X-Men United, 2003. Yuriko. The perfectly coiffed, impeccably manicured and silent assistant to evil mastermind Stryker, Yuriko turns out to be a super-villain called Lady Deathstrike whose abilities closely parallel those possessed by the Wolverine. Wolverine kills her by injecting her with the rare metal adamantium in its liquid form.

X-Men 3: The Last Stand, 2006. Kid Omega. As the Mutant Brotherhood organizes against humans, Kid Omega becomes one of Magneto’s new recruits. Played by Ken Leung, he can project spikes out all over his body in the manner of an angry porcupine. He dies in a blast of psychokinetic energy unleashed by the super-mutant, Jean Grey/Phoenix.

Mission Impossible III, 2006. Zhen Lei. Played by Maggie Q, this femme fatale joins the “Impossible Mission Force,” experiences a staged death, and disappears from the story. The fact that she is Chinese does not explain why the action relocates to Shanghai as opposed to, say, Southern California, which is also inhabited by white heroes plus a few Chinese people eating noodles.

Live Free or Die Hard2007. Mai Lin. Once again played by Maggie Q, Mai Lin is a cyber-terrorist with nefarious plans that vaguely involve computer hacking. Bruce Willis blames her for the awful script and throws her down an elevator shaft.

The Dark Knight2008. Lau. Played by Chin Han, Lau is a mob accountant who hides the mob’s money and flees to Hong Kong for the express purpose of getting Batman to Asia for an extended tourist commercial involving many tall, sleek skyscrapers. Batman brings Lau back to the U.S., where he is killed by the Joker.

X-Men Origins: Wolverine, 2009. Agent Zero. A mutant expert marksman, Agent Zero, played by ethnic Korean actor Daniel Henney, not only looks fine in a tailored black suit, he has better hair than Wolverine. After many tries, Wolverine finally succeeds in mussing his rival’s hair by downing his helicopter and blowing it up.

John Cho

Total Recall (remake), 2010. Bob McClane. Played by John Cho, better known as Lt. Sulu from the “Star Trek” reboot, Bob gets killed off when he stupidly asks secret agent Doug Quaid about his feelings. This taboo question prompts a police raid that results in everybody except Quaid getting shot.

Pacific Rim, 2013. My friend Minsoo Kang, who is an expert on the history of automatons, told me that not one but “two Chinese robot operators” show up and get crushed when monsters mash their robots. (They die at the same time and don’t have names, so I will count them as one.) Not only does this film have a female lead played by Japanese actress Rinko Kikuchi, but it’s set in Hong Kong, which gets smashed by machine-monsters. This film didn’t do very well in the U.S. but did extremely well in Asia (e.g., China, Korea and Japan). As summed up by Forbes, Pacific Rim was “the rare English-language film in history to cross $400 million while barely crossing $100 million domestic.”

Red 2, 2013. Han Cho-Bai. He is an international assassin sent to kill retired black-ops CIA agent Frank Moses. Moses is played by Bruce Willis, so you know he doesn’t get killed off. Neither does Han Cho-Bai (played by Korean actor Lee Byung-Hun), because he’s a red herring who is really a disguised sidekick. Though I enjoyed the display of his martial arts skills, he’s got no business being in this film except to sell tickets. It made nearly twice as much in foreign receipts as it did in the U.S., and the bulk of those tickets were sold in Japan and South Korea.
 Could there be a theme developing here? Why, yes! And it leads directly to…

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Godzilla (remake), 2014. Dr. Serizawa. Played by the legendary Ken Watanabe, the Serizawa character appears in the 1954 version set in Japan, where he unexpectedly dies. Crucially, the original Godzilla hit U.S. theaters around the same time as the first wave of Asian immigrants, in the aftermath of WWII and the Korean War. Sixty years later, the newer, sexier version of the giant lizard suggests that Godzilla is a strong, charismatic, assimilated Asian-American who wants his own starring role in a summer blockbuster without so much goofy metrosexual makeup. And just as some of the funniest Internet memes focus on the giant lizard’s new Hollywood look, it’s not a done deal that Serizawa’s character gets killed off this time around, even if he is the only Asian character with a name, thus adhering to the one-Asian rule. I guess you could call that progress.

Paula Young Lee’s most recent books are Deer Hunting in Paris: A Memoir of God, Guns, and Game Meat and Game: A Global History, both published in 2013. This article originally appeared in Salon.

 

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Fans Celebrate the Return of ‘Godzilla’ at Special Screening in L.A.’s Koreatown

The scorching hot weather that hit Southern California this week seemed to provide a fitting welcoming for the return of an iconic movie monster that shoots out radioactive beams from his mouth. Godzilla, the lizard-like creature that audiences love to fear and also cheer for, returned to the big screen in a new eponymous film released by Warner Bros., which held a special advance screening Wednesday night, along with KoreAm and Audrey Magazine, at CGV Cinemas in Los Angeles’ Koreatown.

The Godzilla screening brought out enthused fans—new and old—of the pop culture icon, about which several movies have been made since the Japanese original released in 1954. Among the attendees were familiar screen faces like film star Justin Chon, C.S Lee of Dexter fame, model Karrueche Tran, actress and filmmaker Alexandra Chun and hip-hop artist Dumbfoundead.

Chon (Twilight, 21 and Over) told KoreAm he has been a fan of Godzilla since he was about 6 years old, when he first saw one of the older versions of the film. “You can’t beat the original ones because those are classics, you know?” Chon said. “But I love this version, too, because it’s a new take on something old for the new generation. I thought it was well executed. The monsters [Godzilla battled] were really cool. Godzilla was really cool.”

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Following the screening, guests crowded the courtyard of Madang 621 restaurant, enjoying potstickers, japchae and free-flowing drinks while a DJ spun some energetic tunes.

Godzilla, starring Bryan Cranston, Ken Watanabe, Juliette Binoche, Aaron Taylor-Johnson and Elizabeth Olsen, opens in U.S. theaters today. Here’s a peek:

Steven-Yeun-Chew

Steven Yeun to Voice Lead Character in ‘Chew’ Comic Adaptation

By ETHEL NAVALES

Steven Yeun can’t seem to get enough of comic books that make their way onto television. We don’t mind, though. After all, we can’t seem to get enough of Steven Yeun.

The 30-year-old Korean American actor is most known for his role as Glenn on AMC’s The Walking Dead. Through the show, Yeun has gained quite a large fanbase (just check out the 10 reasons Glenn would make a great boyfriend) and it looks like he’s ready to grow that base even more with yet another comic book-turned-television series.

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If you thought Yeun was done with shows that focused on eating humans, you’re wrong. The comicbook ”Chew” is written by John Layman with art by Rob Guillory, and stars a character named Tony Chu. Chu is a detective and a Food and Drug Administration (FDA) agent. He also happens to be a ”cibopath.” According to the comic, a “cibopath” can take a bite from anything (except beets) and get apsychic sensation of what has happened to that object.

So if Chu takes a bite out of a vegetable, he can see where it came from and everything the vegetable has been through. If he takes a bite out of bacon, he can see the life of the pig it came from. And if he takes a bite out of a corpse, he can figure out any murder mystery thrown at him.

Gross cannibalism aside, there’s definitely a plus to this—the main character is Chinese American! If you didn’t already know, we get quite excited about Asians in comics and rarely do we get to see an Asian lead character.

For the upcoming animated adaptation of Chew, Yeun will voice the main character Tony, and Felicia Day will play Tony’s love interest, Amelia Mintz.

This story was originally published on AudreyMagazine.com.

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Monday’s Link Attack: NK/SK Artillery Exchange; the Colbert Controversy and the ‘Weaponized Hashtag’; Russia Eyes Kaesong

South Korea Exchanges Artillery Fire With North Over Sea Border
Bloomberg

South Korea returned artillery fire after North Korea lobbed shells over the two countries’ western sea border, pushing tensions to their highest in months.

About 100 North Korean shells landed over the disputed sea border during planned live-fire drills, while South Korea fired back about 300 shells, the South’s Defense Ministry spokesman Kim Min Seok said at a briefing. Residents on the South Korean islands of Baengnyeong and Yeonpyeong were moved to shelters.

The incident yesterday came a day after North Korea said it may conduct a “new form” of nuclear test, and after South Korea President Park Geun Hye in a speech last week in Germany proposed building closer links with the North to spur reunification. North Korea fired artillery shells at Yeonpyeong in November 2010, killing two marines and prompting South Korea to return fire and mobilize fighter jets.

Kim Jong-un Makes Sister His Chief of Staff
Chosun Ilbo

North Korean leader Kim Jong-un’s younger sister Kim Yeo-jong has been his chief of staff since last year, a source said Sunday. The source said Kim Yeo-jong was appointed chief secretary of the Workers Party early last year.

Before Kim Yeo-jong’s promotion, the chief secretary was Kim Chang-son, who is now chief of protocol. This is the first time that a member of the Kim family has assumed the post of chief secretary.

The party secretariat is in charge of purchasing and providing daily necessities for the leader and his family and also handles the delivery of official reports from the party, the Cabinet, the powerful National Defense Commission and other key state organizations.

Corpse surfaces during “Avengers” shooting
Korea Herald

A dead body floated to the surface of the Han River under Mapo Bridge in Seoul, where the American movie crew was filming a sequel to Hollywood Blockbuster “The Avengers,” police said Sunday.

“A security member of the movie crew aboard a boat found the body floating and reported it to the police at around 2:10 p.m.,” said an officer at Seoul Metropolitan Police Agency.

A police team retrieved the badly decomposed body, which was later identified as a 21-year-old man surnamed Yoon. He was reported missing by his family on March 10, after sending a mobile text message expressing his despair.

Blocking all lanes on the bridge for nearly 12 hours from early in the morning, the American crew shot for “The Avengers: The Age of Ultron” Sunday, the first day of their two-week stint here in Korea.

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THE CAMPAIGN TO “CANCEL” COLBERT
New Yorker

On Thursday night, the official Twitter account for “The Colbert Report” committed the comedic sin of delivering a punch line without its setup. The offending tweet, “I am willing to show #Asian community I care by introducing the Ching-Chong Ding-Dong Foundation for Sensitivity to Orientals or Whatever,” was meant to be a satirical analog to the Washington Redskins Original Americans Foundation, whose creation was announced earlier this week by the team’s owner, Daniel Snyder.

The joke, which originally aired on Wednesday’s episode, is not particularly complicated: Daniel Snyder created a charitable organization for the benefit of a community and used a racial epithet for that same community in the organization’s name—so here’s an absurd fictional extrapolation of Snyder’s own logic. Everyone who hates both racism and Daniel Snyder laughs.

Stephen Colbert, Racism and the Weaponized Hashtag
Wall Street Journal

Last Wednesday, Stephen Colbert — in his persona as “Stephen Colbert,” the rock-ribbed right-wing pundit of his Comedy Central show “The Colbert Report” — aired a segment satirizing the decision by Dan Snyder, owner of the Washington Redskins, to set up a fig-leaf nonprofit foundation designed to “help address the challenges that plague the Native American community.” His newly launched Washington Redskins Original Americans Foundation has distributed winter coats and shoes to several tribes, purchased a backhoe for Nebraska’s Omaha Tribe and claims to have over forty other projects in process to help build a brighter future for Native Americans.

For a franchise reportedly worth $1.8 billion with operating profits of over $100 million annually, handing out shoes and buying a $100,000 backhoe is a cheap price to pay to defray ongoing negative PR from the many Native Americans who have been pushing for the team to change its 77-year-old name — which many people see as a corrosive ethnic slur and a reminder of a centuries-long history of broken promises and genocide.

S. Korean game developers to go global with Google Play
Yonhap News

The mobile application market powered by U.S. Google Inc. will assist South Korean game developers in tapping deeper into overseas markets, the local unit of the Internet giant said Monday, on the back of the platform’s foray into the contents industry.

“The Google Play ecosystems in Korea rely on great Korean developers making great apps,” said Chris Yerga, who oversees the platform business, adding that 17 out of the top 20 most downloaded apps in the country were games.

The Internet giant said Google Play, its mobile application market brand that was rolled out in 2012, will provide local developers with new business opportunities as the platform is used in more than 190 countries.

US Ambassador to Korea finally asked about topics not related to North Korea
Stars And Stripes

Think answering questions about how to convince North Korea to get rid of its nuclear weapons is tough? Try talking on national television about dating your wife.

U.S. Ambassador Sung Kim recently appeared on the popular SBS program “Good Morning Korea,” where the focus was, for once, not on the latest provocation from Kim Jong Un.

During the show, Kim – the first Korean-American ambassador to Seoul – answered questions about everything from how he met his wife (they were introduced by a friend when Kim was worked at the U.S. Embassy in Seoul years ago) to which Korean foods he recommended to U.S. President Barack Obama during a visit to Seoul (bulgogi).

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Apple-Samsung row heads to court
Korea JoongAng Daily

The fiercest rivalry in the world of smartphones is heading back to court this week in the heart of the Silicon Valley, with Apple and Samsung accusing each other, once again, of ripping off designs and features.

The trial will mark the latest round in a long-running series of lawsuits between the two tech giants that underscore a much larger concern about what is allowed to be patented.

“There’s a widespread suspicion that lots of the kinds of software patents at issue are written in ways that cover more ground than what Apple or any other tech firm actually invented,’’ Notre Dame law professor Mark McKenna said. “Overly broad patents allow companies to block competition.’’

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Russia Eyes Kaesong Industrial Complex
Chosun Ilbo

North Korea and Russia will discuss the possibility of Russian companies opening factories in the joint-Korean Kaesong Industrial Complex, Radio Free Asia reported Friday.

Russia’s Far East Development Minister Alexander Galushka visited the North for five days last week to explore ways of boosting business cooperation, according to the radio station. Galushka apparently discussed improving business conditions for Russian companies in North Korea, measures to protect Russian investments, and multiple-entry visas.

Other points on the agenda were development of North Korea’s Rajin-Sonbong economic zones, steps to modernize the North’s mines, power plant projects, rail lines connecting Russia and Korean Peninsula and a gas pipeline from Russia to South Korea via the North.

Small Businesses Want 2nd Industrial Park in N.Korea
Chosun Ilbo

An association of small and medium-sized businesses wants to build a second industrial park in North Korea along the lines of the joint Kaesong Industrial Complex.

The head of the Korea Federation of Small and Medium-sized Businesses, Kim Ki-mun, told a press conference in Seoul on Tuesday that his organization is looking at Haeju or Nampo in North Korea as suitable locations.

The comments have increased hopes here of a breakthrough in chilled relations with Pyongyang. Kim’s idea coincides with the North’s hopes to develop more special economic zones.

6 Stunning Celebrity Couples of Asian Men & Non-Asian Women
Speaking of China

Every week, the entertainment mags churn out list after list of swoon-worthy celebrity and Hollywood couples. But these couples are almost always white…and I can’t remember the last time, if ever, that I’ve seen a single couple of Asian men and non-Asian women on their lists.

If my Pinterest board with real-life couples of Chinese men and Western women has taught me anything, it’s that the community of Asian men and non-Asian women in love is bigger than I ever expected — with plenty of beautiful faces. So it’s no surprise that our community includes some stunning celebrities and their equally stunning partners. Don’t they deserve a little love for once?

Move over, Brangelina! Here are six dazzling couples that could turn heads on the red carpet, while showing the world how lovely it is when Asian men and non-Asian women get together.

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