“Hawaii Five-0” fans love to support the cast and crew of their favorite show. Fans traveled to Los Angeles last summer to see Scott Caan’s play, “No Way Around But Through.” Fans also came out to see Daniel Dae Kim’s production of Gordon Hirabayashi’s story “Hold These Truths,” starring “Five-0” guest star Joel de la Fuente, at Honolulu Theatre for Youth’s Tenney Theatre in February.
So it was no surprise many fans came out to see the documentary “Linsanity,” about NBA basketball phenom Jeremy Lin, at the Hawaii International Film Festival Spring Showcase on April 11.
The film was produced in part by “Five-0” regular Brian Yang and was narrated by Kim. Yang, along with fellow producers Christopher Chen and Allen Lu and director Evan Jackson Leong, spent four years following Lin from his days playing basketball in high school to college at Harvard. The film ends soon after Lin’s ascent to stardom following the NBA lockout in February 2012.
Yang spoke to me and the blog “Five-0 Undercover” on several occasions about Lin and the documentary. When I interviewed Yang last summer after his aptly named “Fong-sanity” Tweetup, he was still very excited about the “Linsanity” project, even while working on other acting and producing projects, like his film “Someone I Used to Know” and “The Man With the Iron Fists.”
At the time, I had no idea I would get a chance to see the project come to life.
If you didn’t get a chance to see the film, it is a moving story about a young man who not only has the drive and determination to chase his deepest passion, but who also must also overcome the ridiculous belief that Asians can’t become professional basketball players. The movie will astound you in a couple of ways, one being the amazing ability of Lin on the court, the second being his seemingly superhuman tolerance of racist remarks and prejudiced treatment.
Watching Lin make it over every hurdle, with sincerity as well as a bit of humor, was more than many of us could imagine. His strong Christian faith definitely helped him through his trials, as well as his very loving and supportive family.
The movie is really enjoyable, as director Leong expertly wove basketball footage, casual conversations with Lin, his brothers, and parents, with more formal interviews with former coaches and journalists who had followed Lin’s high school, college, and professional career.
Leong’s filmmaking made “Linsanity” not only entertaining, but also appropriately dramatic and thought provoking. I have taught an English class called “Literature of Competition” for 13 years using sports novels, short stories, and Sports Illustrated magazine as class texts, and where writing sports articles and film analysis papers are major class projects. I have to say this was, by far, the best sports documentary I have seen since “Hoop Dreams.” For me, the experience was like watching a feature film — maybe even better. I was far more engaged because it was a documentary rather than a fictionalized version of the truth.
I was lucky enough to get a bit of a preview of the film when I was invited to attend the “Linsanity” press conference and hear the three producers, along with director Leong and narrator Kim answer questions about the film. They were very candid about their admiration for Lin and his family, as well as about the tide of Linsanity that enveloped them while they made the documentary. When they started out following Lin — who emphatically said “NO” to all suggestions and offers to tell his story — they had no idea he would become a cultural and sports phenomenon.
Yang spoke about the film being family-friendly and for all ages, and that he was curious to see how Hawaii audiences would react to the film since there is an “ʻohana spirit to the movie.”
When I arrived at the HIFF theatre three hours before the film started, people had already begun to queue up for “Linsanity.” HIFF members in line told me that they didn’t believe there would be extra seats available for the movie because of the subject matter, as well as the Star-Advertiser’s press coverage of the movie.
I personally knew 25 “Five-0” fans who had tickets for the event and who were looking forward to not only seeing the movie, but to congratulate Yang and Kim for their work on the film. Several had flown in for the film, including Shannon and Randy Hagel from Hawaii island, Stacey Jonson and Nicole D’Alessandro from Seattle, Letty Batoon from Los Angeles and Silke and Andy Springer from Frankfurt, Germany.
Actor Dennis Chun and his family attended and Chun came around the line to say hello to fans. He posed for pictures and told me he was there “to support Brian.” Other “Five-0” cast members attended as well, including Ian Anthony Dale, Grace Park and Masi Oka.
Fans who attended the film all thought it was well done and we all enjoyed the experience. We all sat together and talked about how great it was to finally watch the movie Yang had been talking about since we first met him at “Sunset on the Beach” in 2011. For all of us to see it together was a special treat. Leong, Yang and Kim spoke to each crowd (the film was shown in two packed theatres) and thanked everyone for supporting the film. Many fans stayed after the film’s conclusion to hear the question and answer session with the producers and the director, and took pictures with them near a big cutout of Jeremy Lin (who unfortunately was in Houston and couldn’t be present).
Yang was right about the “ʻOhana spirit” surrounding the film—the fans definitely felt it that night, in more ways than one.
When I left the theatre, there was a couple sharing the elevator with me, and one of them said, “I bet we can go home and find it on Netflix.” I had to disappoint her — the film is only playing at select film festivals. If you want to know if “Linsanity” is playing near you or to see if it will be released to theatres, follow the movie on Facebook and Twitter, and sign up for email alerts at their website.
For those of you in Los Angeles, “Linsanity” will be shown May 2 at the LA Asian Pacific Film Festival.
Redux Side Note:
Next week we return to our regularly scheduled programming with the last four episodes of season three. On April 29, “Imi loko ka ‘uhane” (“Seek Within One’s Soul”) starts the race for ratings, with guest star Aisha Tyler and the return of Wo Fat (Mark Dacascos). The following week, May 6, “Ho’ opio” (“To Take Captive”) features guest stars Mare Winningham and Henry Rollins.
Hawaii favorites Dennis Chun, Taylor Wily, and Shawn Mokuahi Garnett are scheduled to appear in both episodes, and Teilor Grubbs will return as “Gracie Williams” in the May 6 episode.
Wendie Burbridge is a published author, playwright and teacher who lives and works in Honolulu. Reach her via Facebook and follow her on Twitter.