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Arts and Entertainment

LAist Interview: Dim Sum Funeral Director Anna Chi

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From left to right: Kelly Hu, Anna Chi, Talia Shire, Julia Nickson, Lisa Lu and Bai Ling.

From left to right: Kelly Hu, Anna Chi, Talia Shire, Julia Nickson, Lisa Lu and Bai Ling.
Dim Sum Funeral revolves around the lives of four estranged Chinese American adult siblings who are summoned home to Seattle to mourn the death of their mother. The film opens this Friday June 12th at the Laemmle Sunset 5 and Laemmle Pasadena. In the movie, all of the children have issues with their mother as well as issues with each other. But the late Mrs. Xiao’s last request was for the children to come together and arrange a traditional Chinese funeral that takes seven days. As the children come together they learn about their mother, Chinese traditions, themselves and what it means to be a family.

Dim Sum Funeral stars an impressive list of actors such as Bai Ling, Steph Song, Talia Shire, Julia Nickson, Lisa Lu, Kelly Hu and Russell Wong. LAist caught up with Director Anna Chi at a press conference for the film held at Chinatown’s Ocean Seafood over dim sum.

LAist: How was the story for Dim Sum Funeral developed?

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Chi: It came to my mind after my parents came to visit me from China, showing me some of the photos that they have for my grandmother's funeral. The photos showed that a car was burned along with some servants. It was visually very interesting and exotic too. At that time, my writing partner Donald Martin was going through an experience of losing someone in his family, so we talked about death, family, relationship, etc. and we thought "won't it be great if we can use the tradition of a Chinese funeral to tell a family story that anyone can relate to?”

LAist: Your cast includes some really well known talent (Bai Ling, Kelly Hu, Talia Shire, etc.). For an independent film that’s a big plus. How did you do it? Bai Ling jokes that you tempted her with some delicious authentic Chinese deserts.

Chi: I do have some personal relationship with most of the cast, like Bai Ling, Lisa, Russell and Steph Song. But the real key here to attract the kind of cast that you want, you need to have a very good script to begin with. Actors are willing to do just about anything if they feel the character that you are offering speaks to them. I think people don't give enough credit to the actors, thinking they won't do anything that's indie and have very little money. My personal experiences tell me as long as I have some thing new and unique to offer, I usually can get what I want. Of course tempting with Chinese sweets is a plus always, especially with Bai Ling.

LAist: Some folks are calling your film an Asian American chick flick. What are your thoughts?

Chi: This is first time I heard that term being used to describe my movie. I like it. Why not? We need more movies that would cater to younger female audiences, especially Asian American younger females. Can you name any movie which has that demographic in the center? I can't. So I like it being called Asian American chick flick. Actually it can be a really fun date movie for all the chicks.

LAist: What is the current state of Asian American cinema?

Chi: I think we can still use more filmmakers to make movies that centering on the themes of Asian American. But personally I don't think we should limit ourselves by thinking Asian American movies have to be "art house" ones. “Dim Sum Funeral” is my attempt to make an Asian American story as mainstream as possible, and I hope more Asian American filmmakers would try to that too. What’s your advice to new filmmakers out there?

Chi: You know I hate to answer these kinds of questions because I don't see myself giving advise to anyone. I am still learning, improving, working hard, be responsible, believing in myself and hoping for the best. Maybe this is my advice?

LAist: You’re an Angeleno and Chinese American so we have to ask where is your favorite place to get dim sum?

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Chi: I go to Ocean Seafood in Chinatown and VIP in West LA a lot.

LAist: Do you have any other favorite locations or things that make LA special to you?

Chi: I love Caltech. It's very special to me. It was the first American campus I went to. I even got married there. Because of this, Pasadena in general is a very special place for me.

LAist: Thanks for taking the time to chat with us, Anna!

Dim Sum Funeral opens this Friday, June 12th and the Laemmle Sunset 5 and the Laemmle Pasadena. Save your ticket stub from the movie and get 20% off at Ocean Seafood in Chinatown.

Special thanks to Anna Chi, Eseel Borlasa, David Magdael, David Mageael & Associates, Inc., Ocean Seafood and Kelly Hu.