Asian Am Filmmakers

Jessica Yu (Not Jessica Wu!): Academy Award Winning Filmmaker: Produces the Next Scream?

Jessica Yu Jade Luck Club JadeLuckClub Jessica Wu film director academy award winner documentary

Jessica Yu Jade Luck Club JadeLuckClub Jessica Wu film director academy award winner documentary

You know you’ve entered new territory when your outfit cost more than your film.

Jessica Yu at 69th Annual Academy Awards

Thank goodness that Jessica Yu is featured in Asiance Magazine because I searched and searched for her online and almost nothing came up. Then I figured out why. There is a dermatologist to the stars named Jessica Wu and somehow Jessica Yu’s name keeps being misspelled and then mixed up with the derm! It seems to happen over and over again because “Wu” is just a more common last name than “Yu.”

I was curious to see what she was up to …

“Directed by the previously little-known horror director Adam Wingard from a screenplay by Simon Barrett, “Next” tells the story of a young man (A.J. Bowen) and his girlfriend (Sharni Vinson) who head to a vacation house for a family reunion only to find violent dangers lurking. Unlike a traditional horror film, where passive victims are picked off one by one, however, this one sees the victims fight back in ways that, according to several Web reviews, are both brutal and funny.

Respected fan site Hitfix even compares the movie to “Scream” because of the way it can play to hard-core horror fans as well as a mainstream audience. “The film is fiendishly clever in the way it springs its various surprises, and the cast manages to make this feel legitimately life-and-death, but also keeps it light and funny.”

The Hitfix reviewer also said (before any negotiations came to light) that he’s expecting a bit of a breakout. ” I’d put a little money down on the notion that you’ll get to see this one sooner rather than later, and in a real theater.  A little bit of post-production sweetening to smooth off some of the rough technical edges could help,” he writes. “and this could be a lovely small-scale sensation.’” from The LA Times Blog

“ Snoot Entertainment’s Keith Calder and Jessica Wu produced the project with Simon Barrett and Kim Sherman. The film reunites the principal cast from Wingard and Barrett’s shocking serial-killer thriller A Horrible Way To Die, which screened at the 2010 Toronto International Film Festival.” from Internet Movie Database.  OOPS, they misspelled her name here! See what I mean?!

Jessica Yu Filmmaker JadeLuckClub

And here is another project of hers …

Jessica Wu Yu mix up JadeLuckClub filmmaker oscar winner Jade Luck Club

Protagonist Review from TV Guide

Academy Award winning documentary filmmaker Jessica Wu (Misspelled Again!!)  originally planned on making a documentary about the classical tragedian Euripides. What she wound up with is an audacious and remarkably assured documentary that weaves together four seemingly unrelated portraits of four contemporary men whose very different lives follow the course of Euripidean drama.

Wu’s subjects couldn’t be any more different. Mark Pierpont is a former evangelical preacher who knew fairly early on that he was gay. Growing up in a devout Christian family in Wildwood, NJ, he feared the perdition the Church guaranteed homosexuals, and convinced himself that he’d been cured through prayer. After attending a missionary training school instead of college, Pierpont began spreading the Gospel around the world; he also began leafleting Seattle-area gay bars with the woman who would soon become his wife, promising the Sodomites within that they, too, could overcome their homosexuality through force of will and God’s love. Mexican-American Joe Loya had a happy childhood until the death of his mother from cancer when Joe was 9, after which his grieving alcoholic father began mercilessly abusing him. Helpless in the face of his father’s violence and unable to protect his younger brother from beatings that amounted to torture, Loya found another way of proving his strength as a man: He embarked on a career of petty crime and bank robberies that would eventually land in him a California prison. It wasn’t the money Loya was after. He knew even while it was happening that the real rush came from his victims’ fear and degradation.

As a kid, Mark Salzman (a particularly engaging storyteller who also happens to be Wu’s husband) was a slight, insecure, self-described human punching bag for school bullies, but when he first saw the TV show Kung Fu, Salzman knew he’d found his role model: Kwai Chang, played by David Carradine, a highly trained martial artist of quiet strength, courage and wisdom who reluctantly used his deadly fists to serve his high ideals. Determined to become as much like his new hero as possible, Salzman began taking Chinese boxing lessons from a local instructor, a full-blown sociopath who seemed to delight in violence, humiliation and cruelty, and who drove his students to perverse lengths to prove their commitment. Hans-Joachim Klein is perhaps the most well-known of Wu’s raconteurs. The son of a German-Jewish mother who committed suicide in the Ravensbrueck concentration camp and a German police officer who considered Adolph Hitler to have been a “good man,” Klein grew up respecting the police and fearing his father. After witnessing the brutal treatment meted out upon the student and worker demonstrators during the tumult of 1968, however, Klein underwent a political awakening and threw himself into radical left-wing politics. By 1972, he was deeply involved with the RAF and members of the Baader-Meinhof gang; in 1975, he joined notorious Venezuelan terrorist Carlos the Jackal in an ill-fated attempt to storm the OPEC headquarters in Vienna and take the oil ministers hostage. Three people were shot to death, and even though Klein was hailed as a hero by his colleagues, he, like the three other subjects of this remarkable film, had reached a turning point.

Wu imposes a structure on the diverse stories by organizing them into chapters whose headings are drawn from elements germane to classical drama: “Character,” “Provocation,” “Opportunity,” “Certainty,” “Threshold,” “Doubt,” “Reversal,” etc. As in her acclaimed 2004 documentary IN THE REALMS OF THE UNREAL, which told the strange, lonely story of outsider artist Henry Darger, Wu makes ingenious use of animation to reveal deeper meanings. Utilizing the ingenious puppetry of Janie Geiser to enacting episodes from Euripides plays (the original ancient Greek text is read in voice over by Marina Sirtis and Chris Diamantopolous) and well as dramatizations of her subjects’ life stories, Wu is able to demonstrate both the timelessness and the universality of stories which, on the surface, sound extreme and unique. All, however, are searching for transcendence, and an escape from the shame, pain and rage of their lives through extreme experience. And each will find their own way back to themselves after reaching the inevitable crisis and catharsis in ways that are surprising and deeply affecting.  –Ken Fox

What do you think of Jessica Yu? Does anyone have a photo of her Academy Award dress? It was gorgeous…

p.s. I liked her husband’s books too! He’s also an interesting guy. The first book, Iron and Silk, is about martial arts (yes, he’s a martial arts guy). The Soloist reflects his classical cellist background. And you can see him in Yu’s film, The Protagonist.

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