Gedde Watanabe doesn't need to make short films. After all, the actor, best known for playing Long Duk "No More Yank-ee My Wank-ee" Dong in Sixteen Candles, spent six years on ER and does regular voice-acting work for video games and cartoons. So what's he doing in Fortune Hunters, a short film that's part of the San Diego Asian Film Festival, which opens this Thursday at UltraStar's Hazard Cinema and runs through Oct. 18?"I wanted to see myself older," says Watanabe, who plays the owner of a fortune-cookie company and father to Arthur (Kelvin Yu), a young man whose break-up with his girlfriend (Jessica Skerrit) causes him to write fortunes like "You will die alone." Eventually Arthur's love letters get mixed up with his fortunes, and everyone eating Chinese food ends up looking for love.
Watanabe thought the script both embraced and broke down the Asian stereotypes that often make their way into movies and that he himself has played on more than one occasion. "But the world is changing," he says. "You've got more people on screen now that are doing interesting characters. You've got Sandra Oh on Gray's Anatomy and Rex Lee on Entourage. I rarely do accented roles anymore.""It's just a universal story about getting a second chance at love," says Fortune Hunter co-writer and producer Mike Standish (full disclosure: Standish and I edited a magazine together a number of years ago). "We all share the same stories and obstacles-we just talk about them in different ways. [Director] Thom [Harpe] and I wanted to create a story that took place within a specific kind of American culture but isn't just about ‘Asian issues.'" That's one of the big reasons Watanabe signed on. "I love the fact that he was just in love," he says. "I think the Asian male is portrayed with a lot of castration. Because we do have sex lives, we do have family problems, some of us even do drugs. We're just as much participatory of the good things as the bad." Fortune Hunters plays as part of SDAFF's Love is a Battlefield shorts collection, playing Saturday, Oct. 13, at 6:15 p.m. and Tuesday, Oct. 16, at 8:45 p.m. The complete lineup and ticket packages are available at www.sdaff.org.