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Surf Detroit, the inspiration behind the dream
One particularly cold Wednesday morning as I geared myself up to carry a blue foam surfboard across the frigid sand at Santa Monica Beach, my beginning surf class instructor reminded us that we were the lucky ones - that somewhere at that moment some kid in the Midwest was flipping through the pages of his tattered surf magazine, dreaming of shaping his own boards, and one day setting foot in the Pacific Ocean. He told us how there is an entire culture of people in all areas of the world who wait excitedly for their own surfer magazines to arrive in the mail while we were out here, in California, living the dream. What does it matter if the water is cold? We’re the lucky ones!
Three hours later, as I dragged myself into 1970s Film Criticism Class with the Notorious PhD Todd Boyd, I learned about those things from the seventies that we repeat today as our country is in crisis. We discussed the oil embargos, the loss of confidence in our Presidency, and how these things lead to the 1982 racially motivated death of Vincent Chin in Detroit, a city that truly represents the economic, emotional, and physical condition of the rest of the nation. Vincent Chin was denied his dreams simply because of who he was. Vincent Chin would never get the chance to go surfing in the freezing early morning Pacific Ocean. I was crushed.
That night in feature script writing class, I began to put my feelings to the page.
I don’t know if Vincent Chin ever wanted to surf, or if he even cared to swim. I have no idea if he ever went to the beach at Belle Isle, Detroit and waded into the Detroit River. I do know that he was a person on the verge of a new time in his life, the day before his wedding, when he was killed by three workers recently laid off from Chrysler, angry at all things Asian for “stealing” the American automotive customers and for “stealing” their jobs.
Once day I might get to tell that story. Hopefully, the feature length version of Surf Detroit will tell it, but for now, the short film, my USC thesis film is not the story of Vincent Chin. My character Hector Wu is not Vincent Chin. My character Maddy is only sister to the fictional Hector. But she is the very real embodiment of how it feels to grieve the loss of someone so beautiful as a brother with a simple dream, a dream that is almost within reach, yet so impossibly far away.
I hope you enjoy my short film, Surf Detroit. It is my dream come true.
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