Monday, March 31, 2008

Interracial love is at heart of 'Shop'

Romantic comedies typically don't feature Asian leading men and African-American leading ladies, but then again, "Akira's Hip Hop Shop" is not a typical movie.

Starring TV's James Kyson Lee (who is best known as Ando on NBC's "Heroes"), the film is centered around the budding interracial romance between a Japanese hip-hop fanatic named Akira (Lee), and an African-American culinary student named Daphne (Emayatzy Corinealdi), and offers a slice of life and love we rarely see.

Written, directed and produced by Detroit native Joe Doughrity , "Akira's Hip Hop Shop" is being screened 7 p.m. Thursday in room 1360 of the University of Michigan's East Hall, 530 Church St., in Ann Arbor. The screening, which is free, will be followed by a Q&A on the film and race relations.

"I was inspired to make 'Akira' following my first trip to Japan in 2005," says Doughrity, who grew up devouring matinee movies at the Northwest Theater on Grand River Avenue. He now lives in Los Angeles.

"Everywhere I went I saw images of rappers 50 Cent and Eminem. And in every cafe and nightclub they were booming loud, uncensored rap music," he says. "Just like jazz before it, the Japanese love rap music as it represents something authentically American.

"Also you see lots of American men dating Asian women, but very rarely do you see Asian men dating outside their race. I wanted to flip the paradigm and explore that."

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