What We Have In Common

Filmmaker Arthur Dong's new documentary Hollywood Chinese, explores the complicated relationship between Chinese culture and American Cinema

BY Japhy Grant

April 13 2008 11:00 PM ET

I have a confession to make. I love Charlie Chan.
When I was a kid I had the chicken pox and my Mom rented
me Charlie Chan films and I felt guilty as I got
older about having liked the movies so much.
You watched Charlie Chan while you had chicken
pox? Really?

Yeah, I think I’ve seen every one. That’s hilarious. That’s really
great. How do you discuss a film like Charlie Chan?
It does show what it’s like to be
Chinese-American in a lot of ways, even though, you know, it
had yellowface and all that.

Yeah, and Charlie Chan really does talk like a
fortune cookie.
But he’s smarter than everyone!
He’s smarter than the police and other
detectives and he always solves the case. And of course,
“Number One Son.” He was on the swim
team, he was a college graduate. I can’t believe
it. You shouldn’t feel guilty at all!

Roland Winters as Charlie Chan | Advocate.com

It’s interesting how much sexuality plays a part
in Chinese American cinema, especially when it comes to
the guys and the whole notion of Asian
masculinity. I love the things that David Henry
Hwang says.
And B.D. Wong. There’s a guy that really
sums it up for you. He’s someone who’s
really had to struggle with both racism and his sexuality
and he’s now played this wide range of
different roles. It seems to have helped him. Plus,
you know -- he’s so hot. It’s so interesting
to see how sexuality changes from generation to
generation. One of the things that interested me was
the photos of Marion Wong [who’s 1916 silent film,
The Curse of Quon Gwon is now acknowledged as
the first Chinese-American film ever made] and the women
around her and they’re all wearing pants, which
in that time was just not something women did.
There’s a part of me that goes, “What is the
story there?” and of course, that story is now
lost to history because they’re gone.

Curse of Quon Gwon, Directed by Marion Wong | Advocate.com

Tags: film

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