Sunday, April 13, 2008

Hollywood Chinese

Last night, I went to go see Arthur Dong's documentary, "Hollywood Chinese" at the Sundance Kabuki.

As an avid art house film goer, trivia geek and American of Chinese ancestry, this was my kid-in-a-candy-shop kind of film. In general, I find documentaries fascinating and very informative. What made this film standout was the history of Chinese and Chinese-Americans in Hollywood cinema.

This included the "first" official Hollywood film featuring Chinese-Americans, pioneer Anna May Wong, and extremely insightful and candid interviews from a who-who's list of Chinese in cinema that included: Tsao Chin, Lisa Lu, Nancy Kwan, James Hong, Amy Tan, Wayne Wang, Ang Lee, Justin Lin, B.D. Wong and Joan Chen.

As discussed in Jeff Adachi's "The Slanted Screen" (2006), the documentary touched upon the not so positive portrayals of Asians in cinema. But "Hollywood Cinema" goes further. It points out the strong, prominent roles native Chinese such as Chow Yun-Fat, Jet Li and Jackie Chan have gotten in recent years. American born actors such as Michael Wong (Russell's brother), Lee-Hom (Alexander) Wang, and Maggie Q had to go to Asia to get the meaty roles they were unable to get at home.

Had I been born and raised in California, I think my calling would have been in film. Since I wasn't, documentaries like "Hollywood Chinese" fulfill for me "what could be".

photo courtesy of DeepFocus Productions

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