Cathy Yan is the first Chinese-American Woman to direct a Hollywood SuperHero Movie

2020 marks the release of DC’s new girl-gang film, starring Margot Robbie and popular Netflix comedian Ali Wong. The film features a strong female cast and LGBTQ characters based on the comic book series Birds of Prey. This will be Cathy Yan’s second feature film and she will be the first woman of color to direct a DC series franchise. Maybe DC is finally realizing that their usual choice of straight white male directors isn’t always the best way to go (ie. The Justice League and Suicide Squad).

The original DC Birds of Prey comic book series is one of the few all-girl superhero teams featuring Black Canary, Oracle and Huntress, “a femme force to be reckoned with.”

Ali Wong is set to play fan-favorite character Renee Montoya, a hard-drinking, mysterious Gotham detective, basically a Jessica Jones archetype, who prefers to fight crime without any of the fame, glam or glitz. All while navigating a long-term relationship with her girlfriend, Batwoman (Kate Kane).

Even though Harley Quinn isn’t technically a part of the Birds of Prey comic book franchise, seeing Harley Quinn outside of a relationship from the Joker, supported by her girlfriends, and being the bad-ass, bisexual queen we’ve been waiting for makes it worthwhile.

Jurnee Smollett-Bell (left) will play Black Canary and Mary Elizabeth Winstead (right) will play Huntress. You might recognize Mary Elizabeth Winstead in her roles in “Scott Pilgrim vs the World” and “Fargo.” In her role as Huntress, she’s the abandoned daughter of Batman and Catwoman working to fight crime in Gotham with her fellow team members.

Cathy Yan focuses most of her films on telling Korean queer stories such as According to My Mother, an indie dark comedy about a young gay Korean man who moves back in with his hyper-religious mother after the death of his aunt.

Her first feature film, Dead Pigs, was featured at the Sundance Film Festival in January of 2018 and film critics admired the quirky-off beat dramatic, comedy. Some critics believe the success of her first feature film helped her to get picked as the director for the new film. Not to mention sources say that Margot Robbie pushed the DC team to hire a female director. Talk about girl power!

It took Cathy Yan a while to get into the film industry but she doesn’t believe it was due to direct discrimination within the film industry instead she stating in a Princeton alumni feature interview:

“Frankly, I didn’t see anyone who looked like me doing what I wanted to do. There were no real role models, Almost every director was male, and if they were a woman, they were a white woman. That made it difficult, too, because I do think it’s important to have role models in order to understand that you can do what they do. That took a while.”

What brought Cathy Yan to Film...

Cathy Yan was born in Hong Kong and spent most of her childhood moving between Hong Kong and the East Coast of the United States. Yan was always fascinated by people and capturing their stories. As a child, she loved running around with a video camera making short films of family and friends. She soon grew to realize the significance film has on motivating change in the world. Yet, she didn’t feel ready to start making films.

In her early adulthood, she graduated with a bachelor's degree from Princeton University's Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs in 2008. Yan states in a Princeton alumni feature interview:

“Princeton made it ‘that much harder to go into a field like film.’ If you go into a school like Princeton that’s focused on academics, there’s a very binary way of judging how intelligent someone is, so I think that made it a little more difficult to take the risk.”

Yan decided to take the risk, and in 2014, she graduated from the New York University Business school with an MBA in business. In 2016, she graduated with an MFA in New York University’s Tish School of The Arts Film Program for producing.

The original Birds of Prey comic book series has been criticized for hypersexualizing their characters but with a strong female cast and production team, let’s see how it turns out in 2020!