Hyphen magazine - Asian American arts, culture, and politics

SFIAAFF 30 Reviews: Melissa Johnson’s 'No Look Pass'


An Asian American basketball phenom playing point guard for Harvard breaks racial boundaries and scoring records. Sound familiar?

Melissa Johnson's No Look Pass has acquired added relevance in this age of Linsanity. This documentary follows basketball star Emily Tay as she graduates from Harvard and transitions to playing professionally in Germany, all the while struggling to conceal the fact that she's a lesbian from her traditional Burmese immigrant parents.

Johnson manages to juggle these many plot points deftly, and although she has a tendency to tell (or, rather, have her interviewees tell) rather than show, the film holds your attention the entire way. While Tay may not be the most articulate Harvard graduate, she is often thoughtful and ebullient, not to mention easy on the eyes, impressive on the court, and in possession of a charmingly magnetic personality. You’re rooting for her the entire time.

Although the game scenes could have been more exciting, and I wished for more intimate moments with her friends and family (instead of just static interviews) as well as a more satisfying conclusion, the film delivers in offering a rare and singular portrait of an Asian American female star athlete, trying hard to reconcile her sexuality with her sense of familial loyalty.


No Look Pass screens on March 11, 2012 at 6:30 pm at Sundance Kabuki Cinemas and on March 14, 2012 at 9:00 pm at SF Film Society Cinemas/New People.

[Full disclosure: Hyphen's Features Editor Momo Chang is a juror for this year's documentary selection at SFIAAFF.]

About The Author

Lisa Wong Macabasco

Lisa Wong Macabasco, a former editor in chief of Hyphen, is the assistant social media editor at Slate. She has worked for Mother Jones, Modern Farmer, the San Francisco Bay Guardian, KoreAm, Asian American Writers' Workshop's Open City magazine, Audrey, AsianWeek, Filipinas and ColorLines’ RaceWire. She graduated from U.C. Berkeley and Columbia University’s Graduate School of Journalism and co-founded the National Asian American Student Conference. 

Current Issue: 28

The R/Evolution Issue

We're talkin' 'bout a revolution! Our latest issue features key revolutionaries Grace Lee Boggs and Yuri Kochiyama, along with grassroots movements happening today.


Current Hyphen Magazine Issue

Hyphen Email Updates

Be Our Friend

Facebook Twitter YouTube Flickr

CAAM Fest San Jose 2015


CAAM Fest 2015