When Wayne Wang was fired from his job as a Director of Soap Operas in Hong Kong, he came back to San Francisco and worked in the Chinese community helping people get jobs and teaching English. At the same time, he collected stories and valuable first hand information that he compiled about Chinese immigrant community, which in turn became Chan Is Missing, a film today that I personally still identify with and feel like it accurately represents the Asian American community. Peter Feng said, “Its (Chan is Missing) narrative structure allows us to discuss it as an arthouse film; the film plays with the conventions of detective fiction, and thus contributes to a discussion of investigative narrative structures and epistemology; its claustrophobic visual style, combined with grainy black-and-white cinematography, suggest film noir…” (Feng 152) With its artistic and creative structure of filmography, although this film does not embrace the use of modern technology and plot twists as its budget was a mere twenty-three thousand dollars, this film not only clarified the definition of Asian American culture (or more specifically Chinese American culture) to be a “becoming” process, but it was also a mirror of my own life as I grew up in a very multi-cultural environment.
When the Chinese and other Asian ethnicities began immigrating into the United States, many struggled to find an identity in the “new” country, and as minorities in the country, often many were categorized and stereotyped into one gigantic “FOB” culture. Many times in the American public, the general perception believes once you’ve come to understand a single person, you’ve figured out the entire culture and free to categorize people into that stereotype. This film, even as it seems the audience, along with Jo and Steve, are trying to figure out who this mysterious Chan is and what kind of person he is, in the beginning of the film, “…we listen to the female lawyer chattering on about the “legal implications of cross-cultural misunderstanding” while Jo and Steve emit looks that convert from disbelief and amusement to boredom and exasperation—she is no more helpful in defining Chinese American identity than she is in helping them locating Chan’s whereabouts.” (KJOO) The film not pinpoint exactly who Chan was, and at the same time, symbolically represented that there is no exact definition or a one size fits all explanation in identifying who and what Chinese Americans are. The identity of Chinese Americans is ever changing, and it’s not changing as a unity of the entire group, but changing pertaining to each individual. “Chan is missing works to destabilize notions of Chinese American identity, even while the film is marketed as an Asian American text; ultimately I argue, the destabilization of Chinese American identity not only allows for, but actually contributes to the construction of Asian American subjectivity. This can be accomplished only by focusing on process rather than end result, on the act of becoming rather than the state of being…” (Feng 152) The identity of a Chinese American is not interchangeable across each Chinese American or Asian American,