This browser is supported only in Windows 10 and above.


Telling fact from fiction in “Children of Invention.”

Telling fact from fiction in “Children of Invention.” (photo)

Posted by on

Tze Chun’s “Children of Invention,” which opens in New York and Los Angeles today, is a deceptively small-scale tale of two kids forced to fend for themselves when their mother, a first generation Chinese immigrant, is nabbed for her involvement with a pyramid scheme. “Deceptive” because this isn’t just another indie about abandoned children, something of a theme on the festival circuit in the past year or two. “Children of Invention” parallels the naïveté of its two underaged main characters with the strivings of their parent and others who get pulled in to the scam, lured in by the promise of instant financial success and the American dream.

Here’s Chun speaking for himself on the film, which was inspired by his children:

In making “Children of Invention,” I wanted to tell a story about children that wasn’t necessarily from a child’s point of view. I suppose it falls into that sub-genre of movies that are about children but are intended for adults. I hesitate to call these my influences, because these films are so unbelievable that it’s embarrassing to compare myself to them, but here goes: Bergman’s “Fanny and Alexander,” Mira Nair’s “Salaam Bombay!” and Edward Yang’s “A Brighter Summer Day.” During pre-production, everyone told me to watch “Nobody Knows” — which is superb.

In my film, Raymond (Michael Chen) and Tina (Crystal Chui), two young children living outside Boston, fend for themselves after their mother is arrested for taking part in an illegal pyramid scheme. The film is based in part on my own childhood — my mom even helped actress Cindy Cheung (who plays Elaine, the mother in the film) improvise the pyramid scheme pitch scenes, and my little sis stood on “blanket watch” for seven year-old Crystal in case she got cold during any exteriors.

I wanted to show the effect of the adult world on children, and children’s ability to convince themselves that something that is not real actually is. There’s a number of vérité-style dream sequences in the film — it was important to me to not film these sequences through some kind of “dream” filter.  As the kids in the film progress through their journey, they convince themselves that their dreams can become a reality, ignoring all common sense, and I wanted to show these two worlds bleeding into each other.

It’s pretty easy to make a statement like “Kids can’t tell fact from fiction.”  But I would argue that it’s something that’s endemic to all human beings. People convince themselves of things that aren’t true all the time. All Raymond and Tina are doing in the film are mimicking what they’ve seen. The adults in their world, people who participate in these pyramid schemes, have convinced themselves that something that’s too good to be true is actually not. It’s a blue-collar version of everyone who looked at Bernie Madoff’s returns and were like “sure, that sounds about right.”

I didn’t foresee the current financial crisis when I was shooting “Children of Invention.” When I wrote the film in early 2008, I was writing a personal story about the world I grew up in — a subculture of Americans trying to get rich quick in order to get themselves out of a financial hole.  But with the current economy and foreclosures going through the roof, it seems like everyone’s living through some version of what the Chengs go through. I hope this film can be a reminder that we’ve had bad times before, individually and as a country, but we’ve always made it out fine. America is a melting pot.  It’s made up of immigrants who are, by the nature of their journey here, survivors.  It’s what we’re best at, and it’s what we’ll continue to do. 

Tze Chun’s “Children of Invention” will open theatrically in New York and Los Angeles on March 12, 2010.

[Photos: Michael Chen and Crystal Chiu in “Children of Invention,” Syncopated Films, 2009; the director and his sister in 1988]


Hacked In

Funny or Die Is Taking Over

FOD TV comes to IFC every Saturday night.

Posted by on


We’ve been fans of Funny or Die since we first met The Landlord. That enduring love makes it more than logical, then, that IFC is totally cool with FOD hijacking the airwaves every Saturday night. Yes, that’s happening.

The appropriately titled FOD TV looks like something pulled from public access television in the nineties. Like lo-fi broken-antenna reception and warped VHS tapes. Equal parts WTF and UHF.

Get ready for characters including The Shirtless Painter, Long-Haired Businessmen, and Pigeon Man. They’re aptly named, but for a better sense of what’s in store, here’s a taste of ASMR with Kelly Whispers:

Watch FOD TV every Saturday night during IFC’s regularly scheduled movies.


Wicked Good

See More Evil

Stan Against Evil Season 1 is on Hulu.

Posted by on
GIFs via Giphy

Okay, so you missed the entire first season of Stan Against Evil. There’s no shame in that, per se. But here’s the thing: Season 2 is just around the corner and you don’t want to lag behind. After all, Season 1 had some critical character development, not to mention countless plot twists, and a breathless finale cliffhanger that’s been begging for resolution since last fall. It also had this:


The good news is that you can catch up right now on Hulu. Phew. But if you aren’t streaming yet, here’s a basic primer…

Willards Mill Is Evil

Stan spent his whole career as sheriff oblivious to the fact that his town has a nasty curse. Mostly because his recently-deceased wife was secretly killing demons and keeping Stan alive.

Demons Really Want To Kill Stan

The curse on Willards Mill stipulates that damned souls must hunt and kill each and every town sheriff, or “constable.” Oh, and these demons are shockingly creative.


They Also Want To Kill Evie

Why? Because Evie’s a sheriff too, and the curse on Willard’s Mill doesn’t have a “one at a time” clause. Bummer, Evie.

Stan and Evie Must Work Together

Beating the curse will take two, baby, but that’s easier said than done because Stan doesn’t always seem to give a damn. Damn!


Beware of Goats

It goes without saying for anyone who’s seen the show: If you know that ancient evil wants to kill you, be wary of anything that has cloven feet.


Season 2 Is Lurking

Scary new things are slouching towards Willards Mill. An impending darkness descending on Stan, Evie and their cohort – eviler evil, more demony demons, and whatnot. And if Stan wants to survive, he’ll have to get even Stanlier.

Stan Against Evil Season 1 is now streaming right now on Hulu.



Reminders that the ’90s were a thing

"The Place We Live" is available for a Jessie Spano-level binge on Comedy Crib.

Posted by on
GIFs via Giphy

Unless you stopped paying attention to the world at large in 1989, you are of course aware that the ’90s are having their pop cultural second coming. Nobody is more acutely aware of this than Dara Katz and Betsy Kenney, two comedians who met doing improv comedy and have just made their Comedy Crib debut with the hilarious ’90s TV throwback series, The Place We Live.

IFC: How would you describe “The Place We Live” to a fancy network executive you just met in an elevator?

Dara: It’s everything you loved–or loved to hate—from Melrose Place and 90210 but condensed to five minutes, funny (on purpose) and totally absurd.

IFC: How would you describe “The Place We Live” to a drunk friend of a friend you met in a bar?

Betsy: “Hey Todd, why don’t you have a sip of water. Also, I think you’ll love The Place We Live because everyone has issues…just like you, Todd.”


IFC: When you were living through the ’90s, did you think it was television’s golden age or the pop culture apocalypse?

Betsy: I wasn’t sure I knew what it was, I just knew I loved it!

Dara: Same. Was just happy that my parents let me watch. But looking back, the ’90s honored The Teen. And for that, it’s the golden age of pop culture. 

IFC: Which ’90s shows did you mine for the series, and why?

Betsy: Melrose and 90210 for the most part. If you watch an episode of either of those shows you’ll see they’re a comedic gold mine. In one single episode, they cover serious crimes, drug problems, sex and working in a law firm and/or gallery, all while being young, hot and skinny.

Dara: And almost any series we were watching in the ’90s, Full House, Saved By the Bell, My So Called Life has very similar themes, archetypes and really stupid-intense drama. We took from a lot of places. 


IFC: How would you describe each of the show’s characters in terms of their ’90s TV stereotype?

Dara: Autumn (Sunita Mani) is the femme fatale. Robin (Dara Katz) is the book worm (because she wears glasses). Candace (Betsy Kenney) is Corey’s twin and gives great advice and has really great hair. Corey (Casey Jost) is the boy next door/popular guy. Candace and Corey’s parents decided to live in a car so the gang can live in their house. 
Lee (Jonathan Braylock) is the jock.

IFC: Why do you think the world is ready for this series?

Dara: Because everyone’s feeling major ’90s nostalgia right now, and this is that, on steroids while also being a totally new, silly thing.

Delight in the whole season of The Place We Live right now on IFC’s Comedy Crib. It’ll take you back in all the right ways.