“Fruitvale Station” producer Nina Yang Bongiovi is teaming up with prominent figures in the film and tech industries to launch AUM Group, a fund dedicated to acquiring and developing IP and financing multicultural movies.
Among AUM’s (pronounced “om”) other co-founders are Gold House chairman Bing Chen, Twitch co-founder Kevin Lin and Bongiovi’s Significant Productions partner Michael Chow.
Together with Forest Whitaker, Yang Bongiovi co-founded Significant Productions. In addition to “Fruitvale Station”–which helped launch director Ryan Coogler and star Michael B. Jordan to mainstream success–the company has been behind other critically acclaimed movies helmed by filmmakers of color, like “Sorry to Bother You,” directed by Boots Riley, and “Songs My Brother Taught Me,” Chloé Zhao’s feature debut.
“It’s come to our attention that there are not that many producers of color, so that’s why this is a producer-led initiative,” Yang Bongiovi told Variety. “To have a fund backed by me, Forest Whitaker, Significant Productions and filmmakers that we want to champion, this is the perfect vehicle for us to have that voice.”
Yang Bongiovi added that the film fund is dedicated not only to telling diverse stories, but also to making films “not about people of color suffering.”
AUM led the financing for “Passing,” written and directed by Rebecca Hall and based on the 1929 book by Nella Larsen. It stars Tessa Thompson, Ruth Negga and Alexander Skarsgård.
Yang Bongiovi said that while the film’s themes of colorism and race may have made other producers weary, it is right in AUM’s wheelhouse.
“A lot of people were like, ‘You guys are nuts.’ I’m like, ‘No, we’re not,’” said Yang Bongiovi. “Light-skinned privilege is a thing in Hollywood and culturally in America, in Asia, in South America. It’s just something that people don’t confront, but it’s always in the conversation.”
Audiences of color account for half of the domestic box office. In 2019, only 15 percent of top films were directed by minorities, down five percent from the previous year.