doc films
facebook twitter instagram newsletter

TUESDAY - Asian American Media

Programmed by: Carson Wang and Tien-Tien Jong

The films and videos in this series forged the first cohesive movement of Asian American media, yet their obscurity belies their historical significance, the movement's radical leftist ethos, and its calls for social justice and solidarity between all colonized peoples. Asian Americans were active in the Black Panther Party, formed part of Fred Hampton’s Rainbow Coalition, and joined with Black and Brown comrades in the 1968 Third World Liberation Front (TWLF). Asian American media was born out of this radicalism, with the first film collective, Visual Communications (VC), founded in the aftermath of the TWLF. This collectivized, anti-capitalist community cinema grew into the National Asian American Telecommunications Association (NAATA), which experimented with film form to provoke social change and maximize solidarity. This series surveys decades of VC and NAATA media and calls for a revival of their radical spirit.

Most of the films follow what Loni Ding called an "anti-slick" approach, rejecting both Hollywood classicism and art film auteurist modernism for a humble, subjective style in-between fiction and non-fiction. At the same time, this series argues against nostalgically idealizing a dead movement. Several entries act as critical interventions, with sharp stylistic and ideological departures from the main body of films, exposing failures such as the exclusion of Muslim and queer voices, and a dependence on and deference to the settler-colonial state. Beyond problematizing Asian American media, the persistence of an oppositional stance within this series shows that radical Asian American media continues beyond its original institutional boundaries.

Co-sponsored by the Center for the Study of Race, Politics, and Culture (CSRPC).


7:00PM Tuesday, January 3rd

Ancestors in the Americas, Part 1 (2001) // The Chinese Exclusion Act (2017) still

Ancestors in the Americas, Part 1 (2001) // The Chinese Exclusion Act (2017)

Loni Ding // Ric Burns and Li-Shin Yu · 62m // 162m · Digital

Loni Ding, founder of what is now known as the Center for Asian American Media (CAAM), is a critical figure in Asian American media history. Ancestors in the Americas, her final film, is an epic of revisionist history that blends fiction and non-fiction. 35 years after its founding, CAAM shows its commitment to countermemory with The Chinese Exclusion Act, a portrait of the seldom-remembered Chinese Americans who redefined what it means to be American.

Free screening! The Chinese Exclusion Act courtesy of CAAM. Sponsored by CSRPC.

7:00PM Tuesday, January 10th

History and Memory: For Akiko and Takashige (1991) // Fresh Kill (1994) still

History and Memory: For Akiko and Takashige (1991) // Fresh Kill (1994)

Rea Tajiri // Shu Lea Cheang · 32m // 80m · DCP

These videos adopt poststructuralist doubts about objective truth, but end up with divergent results. History and Memory layers materials from both found and reconstructed sources to examine Japanese internment and its aftermath on a family. Fresh Kill is a bewilderingly fun "eco cyber noia": there's a South Asian lesbian who lives in garbage, a Chinese hacker and chef who serves radioactive sushi, and a Black "satellite dishwasher" raving about birds.

Tickets can be bought here.

7:00PM Tuesday, January 17th

Chan Is Missing (1982) still

Chan Is Missing (1982)

Wayne Wang · 76m · DCP

"Chan is Missing announced that Asian Americans could be artists," remembers scholar Peter Feng. An audacious mix of noir and documentary, it follows a manhunt for Chan Hung, who becomes a stand-in for Chinese American identity itself, as no one can agree who he is, or was. Chan is never found: to be Asian American is not to inhabit a single preexisting identity, but to negotiate a new, unstable one, forging solidarities where they didn't exist before.

Tickets can be bought here.

7:00PM Tuesday, January 24th

Surname Viet Given Name Nam (1989) still

Surname Viet Given Name Nam (1989)

Trinh T. Minh-ha · 108m · DCP

An ambitious deconstruction of language, translation, and concepts of national and personal identity, this documentary features a collage of Vietnamese women’s voices, challenging the form and politics of traditional filmed ethnography. Weaving testimony with performance, and complex strategies of distanciation with self-conscious representation, Surname expresses “the impossibility of a single truth in witnessing, remembering, recording, forgetting.”

Tickets can be bought here.

7:00PM Tuesday, January 31st

Fall of the I-Hotel (1983) // Free Chol Soo Lee (2022) still

Fall of the I-Hotel (1983) // Free Chol Soo Lee (2022)

Curtis Choy // Julie Ha and Eugene Yi · 58m // 83m · Digital // DCP

We fight back! A pair of flashpoints for Asian American activism are portrayed in this double-feature: the first about the eviction of Filipino residents of the I-Hotel SRO, provoking one of history's most vigorous anti-gentrification organizing efforts; the second on the false imprisonment of Chol Soo Lee, which ignited a pan-Asian movement to free him. Both films see diverse communities drawn together in the shared experience of oppression.

Tickets can be bought here.

7:00PM Tuesday, February 7th

Sa-I-Gu (1993) // Bontoc Eulogy (1995) still

Sa-I-Gu (1993) // Bontoc Eulogy (1995)

Dai Sil Kim-Gibson and Christine Choy // Marlon Fuentes · 41m // 56m · Digital

Tonight, the personal and the political collide in a revolt against the dominant narrative; countermemories from victims of trauma are presented which refuse victimization. Sa-I-Gu portrays the Korean-American women who fought against the brutality of the police after the LA Uprising; Bontoc Eulogy mixes fact, fiction, and performance as the filmmaker interrogates the archival record of his grandfather's exploitation as a human exhibit.

Free screening! Sa-I-Gu courtesy of CAAM. Sponsored by CSRPC.

7:00PM Tuesday, February 14th

Forbidden City, U.S.A. (1989) // I Remember Dancing (2019) still

Forbidden City, U.S.A. (1989) // I Remember Dancing (2019)

Arthur Dong // Nguiyen Tan Hoang · 56m // 5m · DCP // Digital

Rebelling against the model minority myth, Forbidden City, U.S.A. shows generations of Asian Americans clubbing instead of studying, and features delicious archival discoveries like performances by the "Chinese Frank Sinatra." I Remember Dancing adds to the sense of liberation, with images of gaysians erotically recounting their unrepressed sex, emphasizing the value in opposing stereotypes without privileging just masculinity or heterosexuality.

Tickets can be bought here.

7:00PM Tuesday, February 21st

Pieces of a Dream (1974) // Cruisin’ J-Town (1975) // Wataridori: Birds of Passage (1976) still

Pieces of a Dream (1974) // Cruisin’ J-Town (1975) // Wataridori: Birds of Passage (1976)

Eddie Wong // Duane Kubo // Robert A. Nakamura · 30m // 24m // 37m · DCP

In 1968, the Third World Liberation Front demanded the decolonizing of academia, leading a group of Asian American artists to form the media collective and nonprofit Visual Communications. VC worked in a mode of anticapitalist community cinema, sharing collectivized authorship with their subjects. Tonight's films exemplify VC's unassuming yet passionate style, from the struggles of early immigrants to the polycultural fusion embraced by newer generations.

Tickets can be bought here.

7:00PM Tuesday, February 28th

The Distance from Here (2010) // Terminal USA (1994) still

The Distance from Here (2010) // Terminal USA (1994)

Bani Abidi // Jon Moritsugu · 12m // 54m · DCP // 16mm

From embassy waiting rooms to public-access TV, our series concludes with two interventions to the main program, to remind us of all the representations still lacking, and to avoid the construction of grand narratives in the act of programming itself. Abidi’s video is a window into Islamabad visa waiting rooms, while Moritsugu’s anarchic punk vision of a dysfunctional Japanese-American family sitcom is both merry mockery and vital, delightful outsider art.

Tickets can be bought here.