Filmmaker Kyle Chin with a shaved head and goatee stands on a beach, behind a large camera.

Get to know Jamaican Chinese filmmaker and martial artist Kyle Chin

He’s competed in regional mixed martial arts events, made a name for himself in a competitive film industry, and combated a rare illness

Kyle Chin filming on a beach.

Courtesy of Kyle Chin

Mixed Asian Media: JoySauce is proud to present something very special—a partnership with the ultra talented team over at Mixed Asian Media. In JoySauce’s mission to cover stories from the Asian American and Pacific Islander diaspora, we’ve always considered it incredibly important to include mixed AA+PI perspectives. Since their team already has that piece on lock, we’re delighted they were willing to join forces to help us share even more fresh, funny, interesting, irreverent stories each week. Take it away, MAM!

Kyle Chin’s two callings give him double the work but double the fulfillment. Chin is a Jamaican director and cinematographer who owns a film production company called AfroAsian Productions. He is also a mixed martial artist—he was the middleweight champion (185-pound division) in Jamaica’s professional Rough Fight League (RFL) MMA. After defending his title for years, he retired in 2022 to become the managing director for RFL MMA. Chin and I had a video chat and I was met with a friendly and warm smile. Apparently, right before hopping onto the chat, he posted a video (on TikTok and X) about Jamaican Chinese stereotypes, and it has already received millions of views! I asked him about his inspiration for the video, and how he navigates both the mixed martial arts and Jamaican film industries as a Jamaican Chinese.

This interview has been edited for clarity and length.

Naturally MonaLisa: Congratulations on your viral TikTok! How did the idea for this video come about?
Kyle Chin: You know the TikTok trend where you say, “I’m [something] and of course I would [do something]?” Well, I went to a cousin’s birthday party recently, and many of my cousins who showed up are mixed Jamaican and Chinese. So we decided to do a video that shows funny and obvious stereotypes of Jamaican Chinese. A lot of people commented on how big my family is based on the video, but honestly, my family is much bigger—you only see a small section of them in the video!

NM: Speaking of being Jamaican Chinese, how has your cultural background influenced your career as a filmmaker?
KC: For a long time, I identified as Black, even though everyone would remind me that I’m not only Black. It is the mixed-race struggle—we feel like we belong nowhere! But as a filmmaker in Jamaica, the stories that I create are completely cultural to Jamaica because I live here. Whether it’s a man climbing up a mango tree, or a person stalking another person at home. These are part of the culture that I grew up with and it’s the stories that I see and hear. However, I do want to start telling more Jamaican Chinese stories, like the viral video that I just posted. It would be nice to do a period film set in 1918 during the anti-Chinese riots in Jamaica, or a film that addresses immigration and finding a home and identity in Jamaica.

I don’t think many Jamaicans know the history of Chinese people coming to Jamaica as indentured servants during the 19th Century. They endured hard labor with little pay, and faced a lot of anti-Chinese sentiment. There’s still some resentment against Chinese Jamaicans at times, but it’s definitely a lot less now. Jamaican Chinese people had a lot of influence in local cuisine (like Jamaican patty), Reggae music, supermarkets and wholesale, and other parts of Jamaican culture and infrastructure. The Chinese have assimilated into Jamaican society over the past century, have children with Black Jamaicans, and helped build Jamaican society. Jamaican Chinese are a big part of Jamaican history, and we need to help people understand that history.

NM: What is the Jamaican film industry like?
KC: The Jamaican film industry has been booming since 2015, thanks to the support and investment from the Jamaican government. The Jamaican Film Commission recently moved into Jamaica Promotions Corporation (JAMPRO), which is a government department that puts investments into various industries and sectors. The mindset of the film industry has changed at the government level, which is a massive win for us. The Jamaica Film and Television Association (JAFTA) was also formed in 2015 to share Jamaican stories with international audiences on the silver screen and at film festivals abroad. Big companies like HBO Max, Hulu, and Netflix have come to Jamaica to film and tell Jamaican stories. I’m very happy to see where things are going with the Jamaican film industry.

Filmmaker Kyle Chin stands smiling in front of a red helicopter, with a large camera in his hands.

As a filmmaker, Kyle Chin wants to tell more stories about the Chinese Jamaican experience.

Courtesy of Kyle Chin

NM: Why did you start your film production company, AfroAsian Productions? And why the Chinese character for dragon (龙) in the company logo?
KC: I always felt like I should start a company like this. I want to create visual products such as documentaries, infomercials, commercials, and films. I want to big up Nicholas Ashton, who designed the logo for the company. I have a dragon tattoo on my arm because the dragon symbolizes wealth, prosperity, and good blessings in Chinese culture. I want my company to be successful, so I decided to put the Chinese character for dragon in it.

NM: And how did you get into mixed martial arts?
KC: In 2012, I was very ill while trying to film a project on top of a mountain. I was later diagnosed with adult-onset Stills disease, a rare autoinflammatory disease. I was in and out of the hospital for a month, and I couldn’t walk properly. This experience motivated me to get back to the gym, practice kung fu, and get stronger. One day, my Sifu invited me to compete in a Sanda [Chinese kickboxing] tournament that he was hosting. To my surprise, I won! My Sifu hosted a second tournament, and I won that tournament too! That sparked something in me. It seemed like I was good at martial arts, so I decided to see where martial arts would take me.

I went to Trinidad and Tobago to do my first amateur fight, and I choked out my opponent in the first round. I went back for a second fight and won that fight too. That’s when my career took off. I went on to compete in fights across the Caribbean and started to have a big following. One day, Jamaica’s professional Rough Fight League (RFL) MMA invited me to fight at their Pro 185-pound Championship. That became my pro debut. My opponent was a taekwondo fighter on the Jamaican national taekwondo team, and I knocked him out in the second round.

I got a lot of support from my family and friends, and I stayed in RFL MMA so that I can help grow mixed martial arts in Jamaica.

Mixed martial artist Kyle Chin in the fighting ring holding up his left arm and holding his championship belt over his right shoulder.

In addition to filmmaking, Kyle Chin is also a champion mixed martial artist.

Courtesy of Kyle Chin

NM: What was more unbelievable? Becoming the 185-pound middleweight champion, or knocking out Roje Wint in less than two seconds?
KC: Definitely the knockout! It was totally unexpected. To this day, this knockout is still arguably the fastest MMA knockout in the world. My original opponent canceled the day before the fight, and I have so much respect for Roje Wint for taking on the fight with me at the last minute. However, he came into the ring with his head way up in the air, and showed his inexperience. I quickly hit him in the right spot and knocked him out in the blink of an eye.

NM: What do you love more—film or mixed martial arts?
KC: It was very easy for me to obsess about martial arts. I am a physical person and I enjoy a challenge. However, film has an intellectual payoff. Film is the most powerful art form because it encompasses other art forms. It is extremely challenging to blend different elements and genres to create a film. It has the ability to move people, inspire people, and educate people. I enjoy the satisfaction of seeing people love my movies, and hearing them express how the movies resonated with them. I like the glory of training hard in MMA and winning fights, but that doesn’t compare to the glory of impacting people through film on an intellectual and emotional level. With that said, I’m going to say I like film a bit more than MMA.

Chin has indeed found a way to blend both his love for film and physical challenges—in stunts. He most recently worked in stunt coordination for Bob Marley: One Love and the HBO Max Series Get Millie Black, and he hopes to do even more. Action is one genre of film that hasn’t been done in Jamaica yet, but Chin hopes to change that—he’s currently working with his stunt team on the choreography.

Kyle Chin, in a blue button-down shirt while smiling and holding his championship belt over his left shoulder.

Kyle Chin retired form mixed martial arts competitions in 2022.

Courtesy of Kyle Chin

Published on May 27, 2024

Words by Naturally MonaLisa

Naturally MonaLisa wears many hats and has many passions. She is an ATD master trainer and a SHRM-CP certified HR professional. She has a small YouTube channel where she shares her personal experience with eczema and asthma, and she promotes nontoxic and vegan products that are safe for everyone to use. She also volunteers at the advocacy group BLM Cantonese, where she translates BLM-related terms from English to Cantonese to help Cantonese speakers have difficult yet important conversations about Black Lives Matter with their family and friends. You can follow her YouTube channel, Naturally MonaLisa and follow her on Instagram @NaturallyMonaLisa.