Disney+ has unveiled the trailer for “Chang Can Dunk” from filmmaker Jingyi Shao, one of Variety’s “10 Directors to Watch” for 2023.
The coming-of-age sports film — which begins streaming March 10 — follows Chang (Bloom Li), an unpopular high schooler who loves basketball and Pokémon. Chang finds himself wagering a bet with the school’s all-star player, Matt (Chase Liefeld), that he will be able to make a slam dunk — in 12 weeks time.
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The film also stars Zoe Renee, Ben Wang, Dexter Darden, Anthony Lopez, Nile Bullock, Mardy Ma and Angel Oquendo.
“I was really inspired by early ’90s coming-of-age films, but specifically sports-coming-of-age films like ‘Mighty Ducks,’” Shao tells Variety of his feature directorial debut.
The film examines teenage social hierarchies and family dynamics from the perspective of people of color living in communities where they’re a minority population.
“In a town where there aren’t a lot of other Asian American families, sometimes you don’t know why people are treating you a certain way,” Shao explains. “That’s why the dunking was so important because it’s an objective goal — it doesn’t matter how people perceive you or how you perceive yourself. You can or you cannot.”
Shao’s film is debuting in an era where Asian American filmmakers and films emphasizing Asian characters have seen a surge of success. “I consider myself part of that wave,” he says.
He adds: “’Chang’ is one of the first Asian male-led young adult stories out there. It represents the future, but also is a call back to the early ’90s, where maybe we didn’t get a chance to be the protagonist.”
Thus, the director hopes that having an Asian American teen at the center of his movie will serve as an inspiration to others, stressing the importance of representation as it relates to truly feeling seen.
“My 16-year-old self could have really used this film,” Shao says, noting the lack of AAPI representation on screen while he was growing up. “He really needed to watch this. At the time, he was struggling to believe in himself and struggling to believe in his dream.”
Adds Shao, “’Chang’ is an underdog story for someone who maybe doesn’t feel seen, doesn’t feel appreciated, but who wants more respect and what happens if you really put your mind to something and then the people you find along the way.”
Lena Waithe and Rishi Rajani are producing the film through their Hillman Grad Productions. Brad Weston and Negin Salmasi also serve as producers.
Watch the trailer for “Chang Can Dunk” below:
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