Monday, January 13, 2003

10 TO WATCH IN 2003:

Eric Byler, writer and director of "Charlotte Sometimes," and Jacqueline Kim, a nominee in the Independent Spirit Awards for her role as Darcy, are seen here on Nov. 1.

Director raises visibility
of Asians in film industry

Critiques of Eric Byler’s movie
run from good to bad extremes

By Gary C.W. Chun

Eric Byler's been on a roller-coaster ride since releasing his provocative independent film "Charlotte Sometimes" last year.

Reactions to the Moanalua High School graduate's Asian-American art-house film have gone to two extremes. Negative comments on the Internet Movie Database Web site have relegated the film to its "Bottom 100" list, while enthusiasts at Entertainment put the film in their "Top 10 Films of 2002" list. Critic Roger Ebert gave the film his personal thumbs-up after seeing it last fall at the Hawaii International Film Festival.

Ten to watch in 2003
The Star-Bulletin is spotlighting 10 people who may have a big impact on Hawaii this year.
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The film's profile has been raised by cast member Jacqueline Kim, who received a Best Supporting Actress nomination in 2003's Independent Spirit Awards, an event sponsored by the Los Angeles office of Independent Feature Project. Her competition includes Viola Davis from "Antwone Fisher," Juliette Lewis in "Hysterical Blindness" and Emily Mortimer from "Lovely & Amazing."

Byler isn't wasting time pondering critics' thoughts. His film has been nominated for the ISA's John Cassavetes Award, given annually to the best feature made for less than $500,000. The awards ceremony will take place March 22, airing on the Independent Film Channel.

"The attention the film is getting continues to amaze me," Byler said via e-mail. "Considering where we started, it's a miracle."

Even though the film has played in special screenings in Honolulu, he plans to host "a proper local premiere" after the Spirit Awards.

"No Asian American has ever won an award like this in a feature film category," Byler said. "Some people in the Asian-Pacific-American community wonder if this might be our time to break through.

"We don't get a lot of opportunities to improve the visibility of Asian Americans in this industry, so we're trying to make the most of it," he said.

Byler's film has led to invitations to Ebert's Overlooked Film Festival in April, the Santa Barbara Film Festival, Reel World Film Festival in Toronto and Asian-American festivals in San Francisco, Chicago and Dallas.

In the meantime he's continuing work on his longtime project, "Kealoha: The Loved One"; a mainstream movie script; and is poised to direct a $1.2 million adaptation of Shawn Wong's novel "American Knees."

E-mail to City Desk


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