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Echo 8 Film Review
By Indigo Willing
Maria Tran is tough, sharp and shines brightly like an assassin’s most treasured weapon in Echo 8, which is her new co-directed action feature film in Australia (with Takashi Hara and written by Elizabeth H Vu). It’s also Australia’s first female-led action movie. Not that Tran’s a rookie. She’s a young Vietnamese Australian filmmaker who travels between here and the US and has been steadily building up her craft as an actor, director, writer, multicultural film festival and projects facilitator and more, while steering the action and martial arts genre full steam ahead onto the big screen. And like many of her contemporary Asian Australians (AA) on the screen and stage, she can more than match her overseas counterparts. Tran is also someone who is driven to ensure that her collaborators’ acting, diverse production skills and martial arts training is fully showcased and is given space. There’s a fire in the belly of the writing, the acting and the production, where cast and crew flourish as individuals yet also uplift their communities and their stories along with them.
The story of Echo 8 introduces us to a beautiful and dangerous woman assassin, codename ECHO 8, who is sent into a house for a mission. But rather than a predictable story of finding easy answers and quickly conquering her nemesis, she must navigate a path riddled with unanswered questions. The narrative is at times light-hearted, and has a cheeky humour, but its heart is tied to deeper themes of family, migrancy, political corruption, strained loyalty, personal secrets, and questions of belonging and connection, all things that endanger an assassin. It is in some ways an allegory to the AA experience where different generations have competing imperatives and for survival, must make it through some haunting situations, but cuts through being pretentious. The actors and stories presented are real despite many having highly trained fighting abilities. We get to spend time through the screen with down to earth people, who convey clear vulnerability from their hardships and warm humour and affection for those close to them.
Tran (Echo 8) is a consistently powerful energy and with her breadth of talent, brings confidence, strength, humour and fun to the role with the type of sass and don’t mess with me aura of women action stars of the 1980s (a golden era with kick ass women who were unstoppable forces). When it comes to the villains, there are some classic bad guys with a strikingly photogenic Takashi Hara as the scheming, and lethal Agent 5, and older actors like Mike Leeder (Z12) and Felino Dolloso (Mercardo) soaking up each scene with their mature looks, hardened composures, and strong commanding stage presence. The young actor Eliza Nguyen (Anna) adds an innocence and sincerity to her performance that is endearing and balancing. Gabrielle Chan (Hanh) yet again proves to be one of the most important AA actors of this era. In Echo 8 she takes her role right into the audience’s hearts with her ability to portray someone carrying unspoken intergenerational trauma, a refugee’s strength, and conflict from choices imposed and with violence always looming. There are also scenes that are nail bitingly suspenseful, sinister, good fun, and showcase great martial arts and choreography, a credit to Tran, Takashi Hara (Agent 5), David Vuong (Delta 1), Michael Quan (Duc) but also actors with smaller roles like the night club thugs Tung Le, Waimun Tam, Chris Sontowski. Bobby Le and Jack Ngu.
The feel and look of Echo 8 is dark and suspenseful, owing to Adrian Castro’s music and sound, a soundtrack by Tina Alcorace (also with a song ft T-Jae and the Rise Academy choir), production design by Tommy Ge, Nancy Trieu and Quyen Chung and the cinematography of Adam McPhilbin, Nancy Triue and Emily Bui. More on the team behind the screen and a multi-talented support cast here
There’s always room for higher production features and various bells and whistles if we expect a high-budget Hollywood experience. But this film wasn’t that kind of creation and in a world saturated with gloss over guts and celebrities over authenticity, it’s a refreshing experience. Get on board and enjoy the journey.
Since 2020 pandemic the AAFFN has been in rest, re-charge, and reflection mode. Same time, our passion for elevating and sharing news about Asian Australian creatives, activists, researchers and other change-makers is a flame that has never stopped burning brightly. We have been regularly sharing news about Asian Australian, Indigenous and PoC change-makers over on our Twitter at @aaffn so check it out. So much to celebrate in the Asian diaspora as well!
Here’s some highlights about a few happenings in the Asian diaspora:
OK so she’s more Asian American, but Malaysian born actor Michell Yeoh rightly got all the recognition she has long deserved including TIME Icon of the year. 2022 was her year! Everything, Everywhere, All at Once also swept up five awards at the Golden Globes! The acceptance speeches by Michelle Yeoh and Ke Huy Quan were also show stoppers (literally).
We were delighted to see AAFFN’s Dr Indigo Willing included in the list for sport and academia (work includes equity, diversity, and inclusion team research for Skate Australia, plus the Pushing Against Racism 2022 team project We All Skate QLD and the Adoptees Rolling Program in 2022).
Rachael Jacobs lauched the Deep Harmony anti-racism program in NSW schools taught through drama and dance.
Maria Tran is a powerhouse and whirlwind of activity and 2022 was no exception. Along with empowering the Vietnamee and Asian Australian community with workshops, film festivals and more, she also went into production for Echo 8 which debutes in 2023. Read more about what she’s been up to here
Joy Hopwood’s film Get a Life screened nationally and was picked up by major broadcasters in Australia and overseas including Channel 9 and Amazon Prime.
Hard to believe it’s coming up to the AAFFN’s 10th anniversary this November, 2021. To celebrate have a look with us and spot the familiar faces in this AAFFN Launch Video directed in 2011 by Maria Tran and produced by AAFFN co-founder Dr Indigo Willing with support from Dr Tseen Khoo from AASRN.
We are super stoked have featured actor Chris Pang before he was cast in Crazy Rich Asians, plus screen presenter, martial artist and actor Andy Trieu who, with his signature charm and comedy, offered some very sound advice. Also see more uplifting and positive insights in the video offered many other actors, directors and screen professionals who have achieved many ‘firsts’ and opened many doors for other Asian Australians creatives and academis. Keep supporting us please at Asian Australian Film Forum & Network (AAFFN) and especially on twitter @AAFFN where we continue to cover community achievements and activities regularly.
Video summary: The creative visions, experiences, advice and ‘real talk’ about why it’s important to have Asian Australians active on and behind the screen: http://vimeo.com/33102053
Black Lives Matter in the USA, globally and also locally and it is important to identify and dismantle systemic racism and enduring forms of colonialism at all levels of society and big institutions.
We have been regularly re-tweeting and sharing petitions, fundraisers and protests on our Twitter @aaffn to direct Asian Australians in our community to listen to and support First Nations communities, activists, health professionals, psychologists and academics sharing about related issues. We also wish to express gratitude to the many individuals and collectives who are non-Asians who have been behind us during the corona virus racism and speaking up for refugees and more, including from First Nations, Latinx and African Australian leaders and community groups.
We are thankful and dedicated to anti-racism, pushing for justice and offering solidarity and support, while also acknowledging we are on unceded Aboriginal Land. We may not always get it right but that’s no excuse to not do the work, listen, learn, and then do more work.
We also urge our community to follow First Nations media, journalists and writers to educate and communicate support to end systemic racism at all levels. The below is just a glimpse and in no way a comprehensive list:
ABC’s Bridget Brennan. on ABC’s The Insiders here
Associate Professor Chelsea Watego on The Drum here
Meyne Wyatt monologue from his play City of Gold on ABC’s QandA here
Professor Sandy O’Sullivan has also provided a comprehensive list of articles written by Indigenous experts from various professions and academic fields on their Twitter account here and they then added more on FB here
Nationwide news sources (there are many more):
Asian Australian Maya Newell has directed a documentary feating the story of Dujuan Hoosan from Arrernte/Garrwa First Nations. Read more below:-
Ten-year-old Dujuan is a child-healer, a good hunter and speaks three languages. As he shares his wisdom of history and the complex world around him we see his spark and intelligence. Yet Dujuan is ‘failing’ in school and facing increasing scrutiny from welfare and the police. As he travels perilously close to incarceration, his family fight to give him a strong Arrernte education alongside his western education lest he becomes another statistic. We walk with him as he grapples with these pressures, shares his truths and somewhere in-between finds space to dream, imagine and hope for his future self.
Director. Producer. DOP. Editor.
Maya is an Australian filmmaker with a focus on social impact documentary. In My Blood It Runs was selected for Good Pitch Australia 2016, the Sundance Documentary Fund and Sundance Skywalker Music and Sound Design Labs and is due for release in 2019. She has directed award-winning short documentaries, Two (AFI Docs, Slamdance, Winner AIDC emerging talent) and Growing Up Gayby (ABC TV) and her feature documentary Gayby Baby(2015). Gayby Baby was selected for GoodPitch² Australia 2014, premiered at Hot Docs, screened at London BFI, Doc Leipzig, Doc NYC, is on Netflix US and reached No. 1 on iTunes doc charts during it’s UK release. In Australia, the film famously caused a national stir when it was banned by the Australian State Government and is acknowledged as significant in the fight for Marriage Equality and Adoption Equality in Australia.
Executive Producer / Senior Traditional Owner of Mparntwe (Alice Springs)
Felicity Hayes is an Arrernte Elder, educator and the recognised Traditional Owner of Mparntwe/Alice Springs. Felicity has campaigned for decades for social justice for her people, the right to live on her country and the right for Arrernte families to teach their children. Felicity has been instrumental working within the formal education system, sharing and teaching Arrernte language and culture. Felicity is one of the grandmothers who form the backbone of Children’s Ground in central Australia, providing leadership and direction on the learning, wellbeing and development of children at her home, Irrkerlantye (Whitegate Town Camp).
More about the team of First Nations and non-Indigenous producers/staff at:
Follow on Twitter:
out this month
KEEPING IT SOCIAL (ON SOCIAL MEDIA)
HELLO WORLD!!!!!!!!! (cue Saddle Club sountrack)…
Did you know since 2017 we began to move a lot of our conversations and content posts over to Social Media including our AAFFN Community FB Page (lots of exciting news from the AusAsian scene – updated weekly) and for public/members who want to circulate their own news of events, auditions, crew recruitment and so on join our AAFFN FB Group. We still also share the occasional cheeky tweet on Twitter at @aaffn
For events we encourage creatives to connect through our friends events at the Asian Australian Studies and Research Network (AASRN). They throw regular casual meet ups across various cities (e.g. Sydney, Melbourne and soon Brisbane and Perth) plus more formal events.
KEEPING THE CONVERSATIONS GOING
The AASRN are having their next Asian Australian Identities 7 Conference in November 2019 – see program here. The program from the 2017 AAI6 Conference with Paper abstracts by two of AAFFN’s Co-Conveners, Dr Sukhmani Khorana and Dr Indigo Willing OAM can be found here.
Hope we see you there or on the ‘gram, FB and Twitter!
Cheers from the AAFFN Co-Conveners
Story on SBS about Asian Australian filmmakers pushing for more representation.
Currently on TV
Cast includes Andy Trieu and Maria Tran in a comedy that’s been embraced by a big time network & mainstream audience. Good laughs to have, good people in the whole ensemble.
Hello!!!! Happy (Lunar) New Year for 16 Feb 2018!!!!
Wow is it really February already? This year’s moving fast! We’ve also been a bit quiet on the blogging front but things have been super busy for the AAFFN and one of our original and long term supporters and sponsors.
Dr Tseen Khoo, founder and former convener of the Asian Australian Studies Research Network (AASRN), blogger, academic and all round guru of the Asian Australian scene has her first article for Eureka Street now up online where she asks the important question “Where are the Asians on screen in 2018?”.
In related news the AASRN now has a new convener and mix in its line up. Read about it here and welcome to the new convener Dr Mridula Chakraborty. She is based at Monash University and Deputy Director of the Monash Asia Institute – bio. We also can’t stress how influential and amazing Dr Khoo has been in her prior role. There’s barely a scholar doing research in the Asian Australian community over the past twenty years who has not benefited from her magic and wisdom. Hail queen Tseen!
We had an absolute blast and were so excited and enriched by our invitation and trip to the 6th Asian Australian Identities conference, co-sponsored by the AASRN, Monash and held at the Immigration Museum last November in Melbourne. The event was co-convened by Dr Chakraborty and Dr Jessica Walton. Two AAFFN conveners were presenters at the conference, with Dr Indigo Willing OAM presenting an invited paper on Asian American/Australian Identities and Representations in the Subculture of Skateboarding (and with reflections on her background as skateboarder and one of the co-founders of Girls Skate Brisbane), and Dr Sukmanhi Khorana providing insights on a study of television as part of an ARC Linkage (with Prof. Kate Darian-Smith, Prof. Sue Turnbull, ACMI, and the Immigration Museum) on role of television in migration – 2016-2019 – AAI6 program PDF accessible here.
This year at AAFFN we are continuing to promote and share news about the Asian Australian screen scene, mostly behind the scenes ourselves but with the occasional post planned for here. Plus don’t forget to find us on our socials!:
and Twitter @AAFFN
May the New Year of the Dog be a great one for you all!
AAFFN Co-Conveners Dr Indigo Willing OAM, Dr Sukhmani Khorana and Amadeo Marquez-Perez