I remember being a young girl with my father ("Michael" in the film) at Madison Square Garden in New York City watching our beloved Knicks. I was puzzled when the crowd booed our home team. I looked at my father quizzically, and he said: "We're not pleased with the play. New York is a tough but honest crowd."
I've tried to infuse my first film with the type of gritty honesty that would do my home town justice.
Many have asked what drew me to filmmaking as a middle-aged woman, and why I'm foolhardy enough to put my personal story out there. As an Asian-American growing up in predominantly white and then black neighborhoods, I was never the same as those around me. The flashback scenes in the movie are all pretty much dead lifts from my childhood, and I struggled with the decision to highlight these aspects of my past. Domestic violence and alcoholism are the Asian-American’s “dirty secrets,” and I believe it is critical to shed light in order to heal. My mother left at a very early age, and my father went out and drank most nights after his shifts at the restaurant. He taught me “not to tell our business,” and the isolation of shame became a prison.
Once a week though, my father and I had a standing date to go to the movies. I was completely transported in those dark rooms and derived a sense of hope that helped me to transcend all the bullshit. I went on to college and well, the rest is in the film.
Post college, I wound up having a successful career in tech in Silicon Valley, where I struggled with my new role in life. I crashed around trying things out. I founded a nonprofit called GROW and found joy in working with at-risk middle school kids. I realized that there was a treasure trove of stories that deserved to be told in those rooms and sat down to try to write a screenplay. Then my damned little voice chimed in and in a very persistent fashion, told me that if I didn't have the guts to tell my own story, I had no right to tell others'.
My hope is that MDMA will reach some kid in the same way that the movies of my youth reached me and kind of parented me. It's about peeling back the layers of a series of stereotypes (the model minority, the rich beautiful blonde, the crack mom) and highlighting the solidarity of the human experience. There are many who can relate to the pain of feeling less than or damaged. It's a love note back to an art and industry that helped to raise me and provide me with hope during darker days.
I am very proud of my cast and crew, who came together as a family and gave their all. I'm eternally grateful for the experience. Filmmaking is my dope, and I'm hooked.