Stephanie Hsu brings Asian American representation to the big screen at Napa Valley Film Festival
NAPA -- The Napa Valley Film Festival honored a rising star for her breakout role in the smash hit movie "Everything Everywhere All At Once."
It is a sci-fi comedy that explores the dynamics of an Asian American family. Stephanie Hsu plays Joy, a rebellious daughter struggling to get her immigrant mother, played by Michelle Yeoh, to love and accept that she is queer.
"I've had so many people, especially Asian American, come up to me -- daughters and also mothers -- just saying, 'Thank you so much for this film. I've never seen anything like it and it tells the story of my family' and they'll just start crying and [say], 'I don't know how you guys did it, but I see myself in that story,'" said Hsu at Saturday's screening.
The emotional movie is said to be in Oscars contention and has already broken records at the box office. It is the independent studio A24's highest-grossing release ever.
It's also Hsu's first feature film. She says growing up, she didn't see anyone like her on the big screen.
"It is really crazy to reflect on, even when I was coming up, I was very much an only in a lot of the rooms," said Hsu, who grew up in Southern California. "I think I've just always been really a passionate person, and bull-headed and stubborn to a fault, where if I had stopped to think how impossible it was for me build a life in the arts, I would have just given up long ago."
Hsu is now creating space for other aspiring Asian American actors.
"I think one of my favorite things about 'Everything Everywhere All At Once' is that it's about so many things, that it's somehow able to transcend identity politics," said Hsu. "That it is centered around a Chinese family, but it launches into the multiverse, so many things are happening all at once, that you forget that you're focusing on a Chinese immigrant family," she said.
The Napa Valley Film Festival presented Hsu with the Rising Star Award after a Q & A session following the screening. A celebratory dinner at the Culinary Institute of America at Copia featured Asian cuisine inlcuding Chinese noodles and Teppanyaki Wagyu beef, and wine inspired by the movie.
"It's isolating to look at media and not see yourself represented and so the fact that this film does represent Asian families in such a beautiful way is very important," said board chair of Cinema Napa Valley Rick Garber.
"I feel really excited about the future of art, to kind of move away from just reemphasizing how we're different and how we've been marginalized, and to really start to embrace diversity in a way that seems seamless," said Hsu.
The Napa Valley Film Festival wraps up Sunday with special screenings and award presentations for Janelle Monae and Regina Hall.
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