Among the 60 films at this year’s Toronto Reel Asian International Film Festival (Nov. 5-16), there are two biographical documentaries about Asian-American outliers.
One is very famous: Jeremy Lin, the subject of Evan Jackson Leong’s closing-night film Linsanity, was a young, rarely used point guard who came off the bench in February, 2012, to lead the struggling New York Knicks to the NBA playoffs and become an international symbol of Asian-American progress. Though fairly orthodox as a sports biopic, Linsanity has rich archival footage (Leong started filming Lin when he played for Harvard) and an unusual, if appropriate, emphasis on Lin’s evangelical Christian faith in dealing with racism.
Less known but equally intriguing is Detroit-based Grace Lee Boggs, the star of American Revolutionary: The Evolution of Grace Lee Boggs. The wonderfully eloquent 98-year-old philosopher and community activist has been part of the U.S. civil rights struggle for 70 years. The writer-director, also named Grace Lee, originally interviewed Boggs for her 2005 film about women with her name, The Grace Lee Project, a study in stereotypes of Asian-American women. She found a character who envisions a social transformation transcending all existing class, race and gender barriers.