Cindy J. Lee interviews Angie Wang, who directed, wrote and co-produced the drama film Cardinal X. Inspired by her own story, the film follows a Chinese American college student’s brief stint as an ecstasy dealer in the 80s. In this interview, Angie talks about how her non-profit organization GROW inspired her to share her story, her journey as a first-time filmmaker, and working with her wonderful cast (which includes Annie Q and Francesca Eastwood). Cardinal X screens twice at the Los Angeles Asian Pacific Film Festival: April 30 @ Downtown Independent (9:15PM) & May 3 at CGV Cinemas 3 (4:30PM). For more info, go to festival.vconline.org.
More about Cardinal X (Courtesy of Los Angeles Asian Pacific Film Festival):
Before becoming a respected social services non-profit professional and entrepreneur in the Bay Area, director Angie Wang led quite a different life as a 80s college coed fresh off the bus from New Jersey but already street savvy building a mini-drug manufacturing empire with her brand of ecstasy. In CARDINAL X, she weaves semi-autobiographical details into this fictionalized tale of how she went about achieving such a feat, the players involved, and how she came into her own.
As the daughter of Chinese immigrants, her acceptance into a top notch West Coast university meant a tremendous opportunity towards better social circumstances. Thousands of miles away from home, young Angie Wang (a striking and charismatic Annie Q.) embarks on a journey of self-discovery traversing highs and lows through extraordinary challenges and experiences involving the typical youth experimentation with drink, drugs, and sex. Desperate to pay her college tuition, she begins synthesizing innovative product after hours in her college chemistry lab and plying her wares at local nightclubs.
Wang spares little sentimentality in the portrayal of her screen self—a deeply damaged, angry, whip smart, yet resilient and highly empathetic young woman. Most refreshingly, she presents us one of the most non-stereotypical media portrayal of a modern Asian American woman in recent memory (one sporting the most awesome 80s fashion to boot). Those in her orbit fall in line to both her allure and intellect. From college roommate and BFF, Jeanine (Francesca Eastwood), a privileged, straight-laced yet good-hearted white girl from the ‘burbs, college friend and would-be “nice Chinese boyfriend,” Tommy (Scott Keiji Takeda), and her young “Big Sisters” charge, Bree (Aalyrah Caldwell) to Anita, Bree’s mom and drug addict (Yetide Badaki), her role in their lives transforms them as much it does her.
Wang elevates this indie youth drama with committed and nuanced performances from her main cast and supporting characters who all challenge respective stereotypes. At its heart, the film’s poignant exploration of female agency and the social pressures women face every day that impact their self-esteem and perception of themselves makes this a must-watch in our climate of toxic masculinity.
— Lindy Leong