This month Cinema Asian America features a spotlight on Chinese American stories through a collection of award-winning documentary and narrative films, many not available to the public until now.
We start with veteran documentarian Arthur Dong, who, over a forty-year career has made some of the most enduring portraits of Chinese America. Three of his films are available this month, including his most recent “Hollywood Chinese” – a look into the history of Chinese Americans on the silver screen, as well as the Academy Award-nominated short film “Sewing Woman”, a moving look at the life of an immigrant garment worker, and also Dong’s mother.
One of the actors profiled in “Hollywood Chinese” is Joan Chen (“Lust, Caution”, “The Last Emperor”, “Saving Face”), who also appears in this month’s “Americanese” – directed by Eric Byler, and adapted from the celebrated novel “American Knees” by Shawn Wong. Unreleased since its premiere at SXSW in 2006, this searing look at race, culture and intimacy is a touchstone for new Asian American cinema.
Wong’s novel was conceived as a response to Amy Tan’s novel “The Joy Luck Club” (which was also adapted into a successful feature film by Wayne Wang), and Tan’s presence is further visible this month in the riveting behind-the-scenes documentary “Journey of a Bonesetter’s Daughter,” which captures the making of an opera based on her novel “Bonesetter’s Daughter” by the San Francisco opera.
Two more documentaries expand out this exploration of Chinese American culture. Featured is the moving “Somewhere Between,” a look at a new generation of Chinese American youth, through the stories of four Chinese girls who are adopted into American families, as well as Ruby Yang’s “A Moment In Time” – a glimpse into the history of Chinatown movie theatres.
We round of this offering with classic films from two filmmakers who have reshaped the commercial landscape of Asian American filmmaking, Wayne Wang and Justin Lin. Wang’s 1989 “Eat a Bowl of Tea” starring Russell Wong and Cora Miao was a precursor to “The Joy Luck Club”, and Lin’s “Better Luck Tomorrow” was his independent hit that paved the way for his current Hollywood success.
September also sees a number of highly-anticipated new releases, including Sofia Coppola’s critically-lauded “The Bling Ring” – a black comedy, true-life heist film starring actress Katie Chang. New from Japan’s Studio Ghibli (“Spirited Away,” Princess Mononoke”) is the animated feature film “From Up On Poppy Hill.” Set in the 1960s, “Poppy” features the incredible animation and storytelling that we have come to expect from Studio Ghibli, and tells the story of a young woman who fights to save the demolition of her school, all the while negotiating a complicated family history. Three new Bollywood films round out our selections: the buddy film “Kai Po Che!,” the crime drama “Lakeer Ka Fakeer” and the heist thriller “Race 2”, starring Anil Kapoor, Saif Ali Khan and Deepika Padukone.
Chinese American Films
“Americanese,” Dir. Eric Byler
“Better Luck Tomorrow,” Dir. Justin Lin
“Eat a Bowl of Tea,” Dir. Wayne Wang
“Hollywood Chinese,” Dir. Arthur Dong
“Journey of the Bonesetter’s Daughter,” Dir. David Peterson
“Living Music for Golden Mountains,” Dir. Arthur Dong
“A Moment in Time,” Dir. Ruby Yang
“Sewing Woman,” Dir. Arthur Dong
“Somewhere Between,” Dir. Linda Goldstein Knowlton
“Bling Ring,” Sofia Coppola, USA
“From up on Poppy Hill,” Dir. Goro Miyazaki, Japan
“Kai Po Che!,” Dir. Abhishek Kapoor, India
“Lakeer Fa Fakeer,” Zubair Khan, India
“New World,” Hoon-jung Park, Korea
“Race 2,” Dirs. Abbas Alibhai Burmawalla, Mastan Alibhai Burmawalla, India