Five-0 Redux: ‘Linsanity’

Apr. 23, 2013 | 4 Comments

 Brian Yang, fourth from right, and Dennis Chun, third from left, pose with fans. (Courtesy Amy Bakari)

Brian Yang, fourth from right, and Dennis Chun, third from left, pose with fans. (Photo courtesy Amy Bakari)

BY WENDIE BURBRIDGE / Special to the Star-Advertiser

“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.

 Brian Yang, second from left, with more fans. (Photo courtesy Lisa Woo)

Brian Yang, second from left, with more fans. (Courtesy Lisa Woo)

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.

 Director Evan Jackson Leong and Lisa Woo. (Courtesy photo)

Director Evan Jackson Leong and Lisa Woo. (Courtesy photo)

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 Hawaiʻi audiences would react to the film since there is an “ʻohana spirit to the movie.”

A question-and-answer session followed the screening. (Photo courtesy Lisa Woo)

A question-and-answer session followed the screening. (Courtesy Lisa Woo)

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.

Yang with the author at a press conference held prior to the screening. (Courtesy Amy Bakari)

Yang with the author at a press conference held prior to the screening. (Courtesy Amy Bakari)

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.

Hawaiʻi 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.
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Wendie Burbridge is a published author, playwright and teacher who lives and works in Honolulu. Reach her via Facebook and follow her on Twitter.

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  • http://twitter.com/monimoob Moni/5-0 Agent #26

    I had the privilege of attending the premiere and give it a big TWO thumbs up! You don’t have to be a basketball fan to appreciate the determination, talent, and passion that Jeremy Lin has for a sport not usually associated with Asians. Ethnicity aside, the story boils down to a young man who fought against many obstacles and tremendous odds to wildly succeed in fulfilling his dreams. Despite the challenges and roadblocks he faced along the way, Lin’s loving family and a solid spiritual/religious foundation grounded him and kept him moving forward towards achieving his nearly lifelong dream. Bravo to Director Leong and the entire crew (and Jeremy himself!) for capturing his story and allowing us a chance to witness this remarkable journey!

  • http://twitter.com/LisaLisa98 LisaLisa98

    I absolutely LOVED the movie! It’s true, you don’t have to be a huge basketball fan to enjoy it. It pulls you in and you definitely feel for Jeremy Lin as he goes through his highest highs and lowest lows. At times I felt like we were all at the games with him and I wanted to clap and cheer so loud. By the end, you’re Inspired by his story of determination, faith and strength. I’m so proud of Brian Yang and his team for making such an amazing project and finally getting it to HIFF so we could see it! And it truly does make it better that we’ve known Brian from our “Hawaii Five-0″ tweetups and talked about the progression of this film. That sense of “Ohana” and support was very present in the film and also at the premiere with all the fans gathered together. Kudos to Director Evan Jackson Leong, the producers Allen, Chris, Brian, and narrator Daniel, and Everyone involved with this amazing feat. And Hooray to Jeremy Lin for being such an inspiration!
    If anyone EVER gets the chance to go see “Linsanity,” PLEASE DO! You will regret it if you miss it.

  • http://twitter.com/juliehawaii juliehawaii

    What a night, what a movie! Linsanity the movie was an exciting, introspective and inspirational journey of a young man and his family into the tough world of professional basketball. Jeremy Lin shook the world with his talent, skill and determination. What’s more compelling is that the “Linsanity” frenzy happened during the filming. Couldn’t have been predicted or more perfect!

    Congratulations to the Director and Producers, including our friend, Brian Yang. We were so honored to share the Hawaii premier with you. Your movie is a thrill and so well done. I personally feel we are lucky that this story is told, so thank you.

    Everyone must see Linsanity when it hits the theaters. Look for it! Take your children. You won’t be disappointed.

  • Silke

    Even if you are not a big sports fan, there is a lot to like about this film. And you will definitely be amazed and inspired by Lin’s story. I highly recommend seeing this movie!