Gerald Lim, AsianWeek
May 13, 1994
Kip Fulbeck shouldn’t expect an Oscar anytime soon. As the omnipotent Academy of Motion Pictures purportedly continues to embrace socially conscious, politically correct, heart-on-a-sleeve epics (see pattern in last three “best” pictures: “Dances with Wolves,” “Unforgiven,” “Schindier’s List”), filmmaker Fulbeck and his independent cohorts continue to push the envelope through witty and caustic mini-masterpieces.
Fulbeck’s latest offering is “Some Questions for 28 Kisses,” which again finds him coping with his biracial, bicultural existence—terrain he began in “Banana Split” and leads the viewer on a delightfully rip-roaring jaunt through the Asian Pacific American psyche, one fraught with sexual hang-ups, jealousy and self-hate.
Fulbeck, 29, loves to push people’s buttons—usually all the wrong ones—and a correlation can be discerned in that when he pushes harder, you laugh louder. If people get bent out of shape, good.
“Some Questions” glues together scenes from films Asian Pacific Americans supposedly true to the cause love to hate. You name it, it’s here: “Year of the Dragon,” “The Joy Luck Club,” “Karate Kid (I and II),” “Wayne’s World,” “Rising Sun,” “China Doll,” et al.
It would be all too easy to blow him off as just another frustrated Asian male who finds strength through the denigration of white males and Asian females. Fulbeck, however, is the very product of one of these oft-maligned relationships: his father is English, Irish and Welsh; his mother is Cantonese. Either he hates himself with a passion or he possesses unsparing self-knowledge.
“People think I can’t stand interracial dating and relationships. Hey, if Mom and Dad didn’t happen—I wouldn’t be here,” Fulbeck says matter-of-fact. He believes those who brand him his work racist and criticize his work as typical crybaby fare are often insecure in their own relationships.
“After this … guy saw [“Some Questions for 28 Kisses”], he got in my face, saying how ‘you Asian guys’ just bellyache because you can’t compete,” he says. “I don’t even know who this guy yelling at me is. The whole time I’m wondering why he feels the need to defend himself.”
Asian Pacific America just can’t get enough of the white male/Asian female, Asian-male-inferiority-complex, Amy Tan vs. Frank Chin, real-deal/sellout, ABC/FOB, immigrant/ “model minority,” sexual-sparring between-the-sheets trash which tries to pose as news.
This is normally considered fluff reserved for the likes of Transpacific Magazine, but Fulbeck boldly turns the whole notion of Asian Pacific American relationships on its head.
Perhaps surprisingly, Fulbeck has found women to be more accepting of “Some Questions for 28 Kisses” than men. Females, he has learned, are often incapable of holding back their laughter. “Women are laughing because they’ve dealt with these guys, they know who they are,” he says.
“These guys” are often both white and Asian. Everyone, male and female, falls prey to Fulbeck’s wickedly funny musings. The steady stream of intentionally snide but head-scratching questions running across the screen during “Some Questions” lends for some nasty and biting takes at this sordid (or is it morbid?) love triangle.
Fulbeck dares to ask “Is half-Asian Asian?” or “Is the only difference between Asian men and Caucasian men the ‘cauc?'”
He begins his adventure with a slight disclaimer—”This video makes people angry”—and delivers on its promise throughout the entire eight-and-a-half side-splitting minutes spiced with hilarity and tame lovemaking scenes between white actors and Asian actresses.
White men look like overeager, horny buffoons; Asian women look like exotic dumb sex kittens; Asian men are in the background flashing their idiotic chop-shocky moves or entirely ignored. Everyone’s a loser in Fulbeck’s Paradise.
“Personally, I thought it was a fairly tame piece; I didn’t include any rape or violent scenes,” he says. “It’s not like I had to look really hard for these clips, though.”
Making film is only his hobby. Fulbeck is a full-time art studio professor at UC Santa Barbara, which houses a student body that is 14 percent Asian Pacific American. (Santa Barbara itself has less than a 5 percent APA population.)
In class discussions, he has run into a gender war which is rapidly getting tiresome. The intent behind his films is to educate, not incite. He wishes to open and continue dialogue, not end it.
“Many women who hadn’t seen [“Some Questions”] assumed I was going to label them as sellout bananas which, of course, pleased the Asian men,” Fulbeck says. “Then the women would say, ‘You guys think you can own us.'” To him, the argument became circular and just plain silly.
He runs separate student workshops which examine the fragile Asian male psyche and interracial dating. “We have the power to make their own image. Growing up, I just got sick of seeing Arnold [Pat Morita of ‘Happy Days’) and Hop Sing [the servant in ‘Bonanza’] on TV all the time,” he says.
Interracial dating and relationships are hard enough as it is. “Some Questions for 28 Kisses” offers a humorously portrait of a game Asian Pacific Americans both love and hate to play.
Interracial dating and relationships are hard enough as it is. “Some Questions for 28 Kisses” offers a humorously portrait of a game Asian Pacific Americans both love and hate to play. Fulbeck offers the following truth for those who plan on entering the game: “Interracial dating is really wonderful if you’re doing it for the right things, but not because it’s the thing to do.”