The Anthology Film Archives in New York will be screening a Chinatown On Screen series, later this month (Jan 24-26). Information from Anthology’s website is copied below for anyone interested in this series.
From Anthology Film Archives:
Whether you see Chinatown as a place or a state of mind, a purgatory or an oasis, a shrinking immigrant community or an expanding business district, its presence in our cinematic imagination is enormous. Situated north of NYC’s Wall Street, east of the Tombs, west of the old Jewish Ghetto, and mostly south of Canal, the neighborhood that began in the mid-19th century has maintained its distinct character – savory, hardscrabble, succulent, and cacophonous.
WE LANDED/I WAS BORN/PASSING BY explores a provocative array of images of the community from the 1940s to the present day. By embracing the perspectives of grassroots activists, performance artists, conceptual visionaries, home-movie makers, punk horror devotees, and journalists, the series raises questions about how we look at the neighborhood and how its representations have reciprocally shaped our imagination. Who lived in Chinatown at the beginning? Who lives there now? How and why has it changed? What language best describes Chinatown? Whose voices do we hear?
Inspired by the fabulously observant 1960s poetry of Chinatown’s very own Frances Chung, this 5-part film series looks at the streets, desires, shops, and struggles of an iconic community that only begins to reveal its stories when the most obvious outer layers are pulled back. Comprised of documentaries, archival footage, home videos, literary readings, photography, and performance, the series rings in Chinese New Year by opening a window to both early and contemporary conditions. Through it all, geography, memory, and observation compress and expand the imaginary and the real of this beloved section of the Big Apple.
Curated by Lesley Yiping Qin, Lynne Sachs, Bo Wang, and Xin Zhou.
We are grateful to the New York Public Library for allowing us to screen 16mm film prints of THE TROUBLE WITH CHINATOWN and THE YEAR OF THE RAT, to Electronic Arts Intermix for VOYEUR CHINATOWN, and to the Museum of Chinese in America for various home movies. Special thanks to David Callahan and Elena Rossi-Snook (Reserve Film and Video Collection at the New York Public Library), Antony Wong (Asian American/Asian Research Institute-CUNY), and Amanda Katz.
Jem Cohen’s NIGHT SCENE IN NEW YORK is a close nocturnal observation of the people and lights of this urban milieu. In contrast to Cohen’s beautifully shot yet vernacular street scenes, conceptual artist Gordon Matta-Clark’s black-and-white video work expresses a more distant gaze on the Chinatown community, offering an ambivalent and imaginary take on the same cityscape. Shot in the early 70s, Matta-Clark’s constantly panning shots move in-between buildings in the area, with the Empire State Building always hovering in the background thirty blocks away. This was a time when restaurants were still open at midnight for gamblers seeking food in the early morning hours.
1971, 60 min, video
Jem Cohen NIGHT SCENE NEW YORK (2009, 10 min, digital)
Plus: A reading from Crazy Melon and Chinese Apple: The Poems of Frances Chung
The view from above – the bird’s eye view – can be omniscient and detached, playful and wicked. Shelly Silver’s TOUCH, a restrained yet endlessly sensual ciné-essay on loss and presence, takes us on a journey that begins with the psyche of an enigmatic son who returns as both insider and outsider to a Chinatown from which he escaped, as a teenager, as fast as he could. Celebrated 1960s community activist Tom Tam left an indelible mark on Chinatown. To our great surprise, he also shot irrepressibly inventive experimental films of the world he fought so hard to defend. Tam’s pixilated glimpse of a boy on a roof gives voice to a child’s sense of flight and the realization that he will never have wings.
Tom Tam BOY ON CHINATOWN ROOF (1970s, 3 min, 16mm-to-digital)
2013, 68 min, digital
How can realities be engaged if the idea of a place has already been mediated by a sense of otherness and displacement? It all began with the name “Chinatown”, a specific place that can be found in many cities of the world. THE TROUBLE WITH CHINATOWN was originally aired on WNBC in the early 1970s as a survey of social and educational problems. A 2013 CNN “exposé” on the “dirty, dangerous firetrap” at 81 Bowery Street sparked a report to the NYFD which led to the eviction of tenants who couldn’t afford another place to live. We can link the tenants’ reactions today to those in Tom Tam’s silent film TOURIST BUSES, GO HOME!, a 1969 document of Chinatown protests against tourism. Shelly Silver’s 5 LESSONS AND 9 QUESTIONS ABOUT CHINATOWN interweaves fragments of neighborhood lives with questions of history, change, a sense of belonging, and home. The program will be followed by an informal talk by photographer Corky Lee, an activist in the Asian and Pacific American community for the past forty years.
Bill Turque/WNBC-TV THE TROUBLE WITH CHINATOWN (1970, 26 min, 16mm. Print courtesy of the Reserve Film and Video Collection of The New York Public Library for the Performing Arts.)
Tom Tam TOURIST BUSES, GO HOME! (1969, 12 min, 16mm-to-digital)
Shelly Silver 5 LESSONS & 9 QUESTIONS ABOUT CHINATOWN (2011, 10 min, digital)
CNN report on 81 Bowery St: “Eviction & Protest” (2013, 4 min, digital)
Photos and artist talk by Corky Lee ca. 15 min.
Total running time: ca. 75 min.
Quotidian life is provoked and embodied in this eclectic playbill of Chinatown. We begin with Eric Lin’s quietly rueful look at the closing of the Music Palace, the last Chinatown movie theater on the Bowery. This poignant vanishing of the communal film experience contrasts with Ming Wong’s reenactment parodies of Roman Polanski’s CHINATOWN and its persistent obsession with profiling LA’s Chinatown as a lawless enclave. From the upfront self-mocking of PAPER SON, to two lesbians munching fortune cookie messages in I AM STARVING, to following grocery shoppers home for dinner in THE TRAINED CHINESE TONGUE, everyday experiences constantly negotiate the personal. Interspersed are two observational films of Chinese New Years, one a 1940s home movie and the other a cinematic gem from 1960. Chinatown-born photojournalist Alan Chin will provide an artist’s vision of the neighborhood through his candid, sharply rendered insider’s eye.
Eric Lin MUSIC PALACE (2005, 9 min, 16mm)
‘Home Movie of Chinese New Year Parade at time of WWII’ (1940s, 4 min, 16mm-to-digital. Courtesy of the Museum of Chinese in America.)
Bryon Yee PAPER SON (1997, 10 min, digital)
Ching Yau I AM STARVING (1998, 12 min, 16mm)
Laurie Wen THE TRAINED CHINESE TONGUE (1994, 20 min, 16mm)
Jon Wing Lum YEAR OF THE RAT (1963, 14 min, 16mm. Print courtesy of the Reserve Film and Video Collection of The New York Public Library for the Performing Arts.)
Slideshow of photos by Alan Chin (1970-2010, 10 min)
Total running time: ca. 85 min.
Mixing live readings and videos, this program investigates domestic and public spaces in Chinatown. With the active presence of the camera, immigration experiences are translated into local visual terms without losing immediacy or historicity. Shanghai-born performance artist Jiaxin Miao carries his suitcase between two strange locations – a restaurant in Chinatown and Zuccotti Park – and then boldly hangs and sprays colors onto roast ducks. Galvanized by flickering and fast forward motions, Tom Tam’s intimate camera work captures the communal life of a health fair in Columbus Park. Lynne Sachs’s hybrid documentary is set in shift-bed rooms in Chinatown where performers tell their own stories while transforming their everyday movements into dance. At some point, the performers are challenged to leave their shared, self-supporting world. After traveling ten thousand miles to get here, what is it like to go five miles further? Followed by readings of work by novelist Ha Jin and poet Frances Chung, who belong to two different generations of Chinese-American writers.
A reading of an excerpt by novelist Ha Jin (ca. 10 min)
Tom Tam CHINATOWN STREET FESTIVAL (1970s, 5 min, 16mm-to-digital)
Jiaxin Miao CHINAMAN’S SUITCASE (2011, 6 min, digital)
Lynne Sachs YOUR DAY IS MY NIGHT (2013, 65 min, digital)
A reading of poetry by Frances Chung (ca. 10 min)
Total running time: ca. 105 min.