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Asian American Film: Introduction

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Presentation on theme: "Asian American Film: Introduction"— Presentation transcript:

1 Asian American Film: Introduction
Instructor: Kirk Denton Office: Hagerty 375 Office Hours: T 2-4

2 I. Defining terms What’s Asia? Who are Asians?
What’s an Asian-American? when was the term invented and why? avoid “essentializing” (the “primordial origins” model) notions of identity, recognizing cultural, regional, gender, generational, linguistic, educational, class, political, and historical contexts

3 C. What’s Asian American Film?
Jun Xing: “films by, for, and about Asian Americans” (Xing 1998: 28) Renee Tajima: “socially committed cinema; created by a people bound by (1) race; (2) interlocking cultural and historical relations; and (3) a common experience of Western domination characterized by diversity shaped through (1) national origin; and (2) the constant flux of new immigration flowing from a westernizing East into a an easternizing West” (quoted in Xing 1998: 28-29, fn 6) Denton: films, videos, and digital videos made by Asians in America and dealing with Asian American experience

4 II. Overview of Asian American immigration
History of US is a history of racial and ethnic encounters Slavery; displacement and destruction of native Americans; immigration; civil rights movement Asian Americans are an important part of this historical experience with the 2000 Census, we know that Asians are a rapidly growing sector of the US population; in 2000 they formed 3.6% (10 million) of the total population; by 2004 it was 4.2% (12 million), and in 2006 it was 4.4% (13.1 million), and in 2010 it was 4.8% (14 million)

5 II. Overview of Asian American immigration
General patterns of immigration early generations came as contract laborers as they became established, would venture into private small businesses: laundries, restaurants, hotels, shops, or their own farms second generation would sometimes continue the family business, or would become educated and then move into professional careers Chinese tended to hold on to their culture more than the Japanese and Koreans; Koreans and Japanese more likely to be Christians and not form separate “towns” the politics of the home nations follows the immigrants into the US: (1) Korean anti-Japanese patriotic movement; (2) revolutionary versus reformist views of change in China before 1911; (3) PRC/Taiwan conflict; (4) Hindu/Muslim conflicts in India.

6 II. Overview of Asian American immigration
First wave of Chinese immigration Chinese first went (or rather were brought) to Hawaii in the second half of the 19th c. to work on sugar can plantations then, after 1848 Chinese go to California and work on the railroad, in mines, and as farm laborers, with a particularly significant presence in San Francisco, where the first Chinatown was set up

7 II. Overview of Asian American immigration
the Chinese Exclusion Act (1882), which was not repealed until 1943, during this period there was terrible prejudice against the Chinese, who were perceived as a yellow hoard or the yellow peril who in sheer numbers were going to take over the world

8 II. Overview of Asian American immigration
after the Exclusion Act, Angel Island was established as a processing center for Asian immigrants “paper sons and daughters” poetry expressing suffering and humiliation

9 II. Overview of Asian American immigration
Second Wave of Chinese Immigration with the repeal of the Exclusion Act in 1943 and the institution of the Immigration Act of 1965, a new flow of Chinese speaking immigrants came, mostly from Hong Kong and Taiwan From PRC 1980s-to present, some of it illegal (mostly from Fujian province), but mostly not Up-scale Chinese market in Monterey Park, CA

10 II. Overview of Asian American immigration
Japanese Immigration occurred primarily between the 1880s and 1920s to Hawaii and California worked first as farm laborers in the California farming communities, were subject to a tremendous amount of resentment there among white farmers in the early 1990s, they began to buy their own farms, but this stirred even greater resentment

11 II. Overview of Asian American immigration
Japanese Immigration after Pearl Harbor, Roosevelt issue Executive Order 9066 authorizing the imprisonment of Japanese Americans (US citizens) in concentration camps, their property seized

12 II. Overview of Asian American immigration
Korean Immigration also brought to Hawaii and California as farm laborers, but in much fewer numbers than the Chinese and Japanese, as a result they tended not to be able to form their own communities, though they did have a strong sense of cultural and ethnic consciousness many left Korea in the early 20th c. after their country was occupied by the Japanese second wave of mostly educated Koreans occurred from the 1960s on

13 III. Brief history of Asian American film
Early History before a self-conscious Asian American film developed, there were Asians active in the film world some sought to resist Hollywood stereotypes James B. Leong Productions set up in the early 1920s in Los Angeles to counter negative images of Asians in Hollywood film Hayworth Pictures, founded by Sessue Hayakawa produced 25 movies, including The Dragon Painter Still from The Dragon Painter

14 III. Brief history of Asian American film
Early History in 2006, an early film was “rediscovered” Marion Wong’s The Curse of Quon Kwon (1916) is now believed to be the earliest Asian American film what’s remarkable is that such an early film could be made by an Asian American and a woman! depicts “The curse of a Chinese god that follows his people because of the influence of Western civilization” (Motion Picture World, July 17, 1917) incomplete and without intertitles Title still from The Curse of Quon Kwon (1916)

15 III. Brief history of Asian American film
Anna May Wong and Sessue Hayakawa, both Asian actors in Hollywood, protested against Hollywood representations of Asians there were occasional protests by Chinese against certain Hollywood film images of Asians, particularly opium smoking “How should we be, with a civilization that’s so many times older than that of the West? We have our own virtues. We have our rigid code of behavior, of honor. Why do they never show these on the screen? Why should we always scheme, rob, kill? I get so weary of it all—the scenarist’s concept of Chinese characters”—Anna May Wong

16 III. Brief history of Asian American film
Visual Communications (VC) Group grew out of Ethno-Communications program at UCLA in the 1960s first films were of anti-development demonstrations in Little Tokyo in LA influenced by notions of “triangular cinema” (which sought a unity of community, storyteller, and activist) and notions of Third Cinema (a reaction against Hollywood classical cinema and the European art film) the VC group began in 1970 to promote Asian cinema; “self-definition,” “self-determination,” “cultural reclamation”; as a reaction to Hollywood images of Asians three main concerns: identity politics, historical injustices, and contemporary racism

17 III. Brief history of Asian American film
first full-length feature produced by the VC Group was Hito Hata: Raise the Banner (1980), devoted to WWII experience of an Issei (first generation Japanese immigrant) in the Little Tokyo district of LA

18 III. Brief history of Asian American film
Rise of documentary film response to several factors: (1) counter to the dominant representation of Asians in Hollywood cinema; (2) desire to create a truer, fuller history of Asian Americans, accounting for racism, etc.; (3) give Asian voice to Asian experience; (4) draw attention to politics of exclusion and racism important themes: identity and generational conflict; personal history and cultural heritage; style: generally personal, intimate, and emotional but with obvious political and social implications

19 III. Brief history of Asian American film
Examples of documentaries: Yellow Tale Blues: An Anatomy of Two Families (dir. Christine Choy and Renee Tajima) Banana Split (dir. Kip Fulbeck), about a biracial man Who’s Going to Pay for these Donuts Anyway? (Janice Tanaka) My Mother Thought She Was Audrey Hepburn (Sharon Jue) a.k.a. Don Bonus (Spencer Nakasako), about a Cambodian boy who escapes the Khmer Rouge and makes his way to San Francisco Anatomy of a Springroll (Paul Kwan), Vietnamese American director looks for cultural roots in food History and Memory (Rea Tajiri)

20 III. Brief history of Asian American film
Styles of Documentaries History as Subject: Personal Diary Films and Family Portraits History as Consciousness: Biographies and Communal History History as Agency: Social Issue Documentaries

21 III. Brief history of Asian American film
Rise of feature film: Wayne Wang and the emergence of an Asian American style (e.g., Chan is Missing, Dim Sum, Eat a Bowl of Tea) the mainstreaming of Asian America change in narrative style toward a more Hollywood form of melodrama, epic or comedy (e.g., Joy Luck Club, Wedding Banquet, Saving Face, Red Door, Yellow, Better Luck Tomorrow, Asian Stories) difficult relationship with Hollywood and orientalism

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