When you look at out documentary filmmaker Arthur Dong’s best known films, Licensed to Kill a searing look at anti-gay hate crime murders and Family Fundamentals, a tragic look at what happens when Christian conservative parents have gay children, you can understand how he could call his latest project, Hollywood Chinese, a retelling of the Chinese-American experience in Tinseltown by the people who lived it, “a nice change of pace”. The film, featuring interviews with Nancy Kwan, Christopher Lee, Amy Tam, M. Butterfly writer David Henry Hwang and out actor B.D. Wong plays in Oakland and San Francisco through April 23rd.
What inspired you to take on this film? I finished 10 years of intense filmmaking with Licensed to Kill and Family Fundamentals. It was nice to do a project with people I actually like! Talking to all the people in this film was such a joy. They made me laugh, made me smile. I loved working on it. You know, it’s a film about race and representation and sexuality. And it’s a film about Hollywood, the glamour and the sets. I always wanted to be a film historian as a kid. For me it was a trip back in time and I think it was important to tell he story before the it faded away.
Did you learn anything from the making of the film about Hollywood or being a Chinese American that you didn’t know before? The thing that [Hollywood’s] all about -- money -- really came to the forefront. There are considerate people who want to do the right thing, but it’s ultimately about the bottom line and the box office. It’s about if they can make money off of you and if they can, they will.