It’s a documentary on the history of portrayals of Asian characters in American films.
Featuring clips from more than 90 films — the earliest from the 1890s — “Hollywood Chinese” shines a light on the accomplishments of the Chinese, from the first American film produced in the U.S. by a Chinese American in 1917 to director Ang Lee winning the Academy Award two years ago for “Brokeback Mountain.”
Among the Chinese and Chinese Americans profiled in the film are Lee, Wayne Wang, Joan Chen, David Henry Hwang, B.D. Wong, James Hong and Nancy Kwan. Dong also talks with the ninetysomething Rainer about playing an Asian and to Christopher Lee, who played Fu Manchu in several British films.
The documentary is 10 years in the making, and the director actually found original reels of “The Curse of Quon Gwon,” the first Chinese-American movie and one of the first directed by a woman, Marion Wong.
For more details on the production and some clips from the movie, see the “Hollywood Chinese” website. I don’t see anything about David Carradine getting Caine instead of Bruce Lee. They better be on that.
If the documentary isn’t playing in your neck of the woods, tune in to Turner Classic Movies every Tuesday and Thursday in June at 8:00 P.M. EST for their “Race and Hollywood: Asian Images in Film” festival.
Each night’s collection of films will be centered on a particular theme, such as a look at the career of Anna May Wong, the legendary actress whose roles during the 1930s and 1940s ranged from victims to temptresses; a collection of detective films, including the long-running Charlie Chan series; an exploration of how movies have depicted interracial and intercultural relationships; an examination of Asian depictions in films made during and after World War II; and a look at contemporary Asians stars, such as Ming Wen and Jackie Chan. The festival will also feature discussions about the Hollywood practice of casting non-Asian actors and actresses in Asian roles.
I’m on that like white on rice, if you’ll pardon the cheap racist stereotype pun. Seriously, this is not the kind of coverage one often gets on American basic cable. Most definitely worth seeking out.