Hollywood Chinese: The First 100 Years

Nov 4 – Nov 27, 2022

Series introduction by guest programmer Arthur Dong.

Bruce Lee and I were born in the same San Francisco hospital. In Chinatown, to be exact, where there were five movie theaters, all showing Chinese films from Hong Kong. The characters may have been Chinese rather than Chinese American, but growing up and seeing faces like mine projected, larger than life, helped to nurture a multifaceted self-image. 

I eventually discovered art houses showing Hollywood classics like The Good Earth (1937) and The Mask of Fu Manchu (1932). Rather than an offense to my identity, these cinematic (mis)representations of the Chinese struck me as a curiosity for further study, and would lead to the creation of my Hollywood Chinese documentary, book, exhibitions, and now, this film series.  

Here, I’ve programmed films from cinema’s first 100 years to both critique and celebrate Hollywood’s depictions of the Chinese, as well as spotlight groundbreaking Chinese and Chinese American artists who have navigated an industry often ignorant of race. There are studio blockbusters curated alongside forgotten gems—some films are extraordinary, others downright abhorrent. Movies immerse audiences in real time, and by experiencing these films in a contemporary setting, I hope we might gain insight to what was then, and what is now. As Bruce Lee suggested, “Be water.” 

Advisory: Some films in this series include racist stereotypes and tropes, including yellowface and offensive slurs.

Hollywood Chinese: The First 100 Years continues in the November Oscar® Sundays series.

November 6 - LOST HORIZON
November 13 - 7 FACES OF DR. LAO
November 20 - THE SAND PEBBLES
November 27 - THE LAST EMPEROR

Programmed and notes by Arthur Dong, Guest Programmer
Program notes for Hollywood Chinese: The First 100 Years © 2022 DeepFocus Productions, Inc.
Donors to the Academy Museum's fund in support of AAPI programming include Esther S. M. Chui-Chao, Julia and Ken Gouw, and Dr. Peter Lam Kin Ngok of Media Asia Group Holdings Limited.