An original young adult drama tells a story about tolerance that puts the spotlight on a problem not usually associated with the subject for a movie - Asperger's Syndrome, a form of autism.
Those who suffer from it have difficulty in social interaction often with repeated patterns of behavior and clumsiness. But for some, there is better than average language and cognitive skills.
Nick Young, the main Asian American character in a new movie called "White Frog" has Asperger's. His situation is made more difficult by a tragic family crisis, the sudden death of his older brother Chaz, who is killed in a bike accident.
Nick, a high school freshman, reacts badly to losing Chaz, his protector and confidante. He later finds out his brother had kept a secret from his family - that he was gay. The grieving parents struggle with the revelation about their deceased son in addition to never fully accepting Nick's behavioral problems.
"White Frog" is directed by 41-year-old Quentin Lee. The Asperger's Syndrome idea "was written into the character" Lee said and had special meaning for him. Lee's younger sister "was diagnosed with Asperger's in Hong Kong, literally two weeks before the production, so that gave me more personal perspective on the movie and the role."
Now Los Angeles-based, Lee was born in Hong Kong and later emigrated to Montreal with his family as a teenager. Lee said the movie's gay theme might be a bit troublesome for the Asian American community. "I tend to think they're a little more conservative," Lee said, "hopefully the movie will help to open the community up more."
Although the film is centered around the life of a troubled suburban California Chinese American teenager, Lee explained that "the composition of the kid's friends is very multi-cultural" and "hopefully is a very universal kind of thing."
The metaphor of the "White Frog," revealed late in the movie, promotes the idea that while people are different, friendship and understanding can overcome biases and rejection.
The Asian American community has responded positively to Lee's work. "For every artist it's your own struggle but support wise I've been playing Asian American film festivals since my first short films," Lee said.
"White Frog" opened in March at the San Francisco Asian American International Film Festival and also played at the Los Angeles Outfest in July. Negotiations are being held for wider distribution.