The 1980s marked the first decade of Asian American feature filmmaking—a period defined by restless thematic and stylistic exploration as trailblazing directors sought to express their complex cultural identity on-screen. In this decade, filmmakers like Wayne Wang (whose CHAN IS MISSING emerged as an indie landmark), Steven Okazaki, Peter Wang, and Kayo Hatta sought to define “Asian American” anew, whether through comedic contrast with Asians on the other side of the Pacific (THE GREAT WALL, LIVING ON TOKYO TIME), or via tender melodramas of the second generation (DIM SUM: A LITTLE BIT OF HEART, OTEMBA). Supported not only by the burgeoning American independent market of the 1980s, but also by new Asian American film festivals and media centers in New York, Los Angeles, and San Francisco, the films in this program—curated by Brian Hu—imagined for the first time what a community in the shadows might do with the spotlight.
Directed by Wayne Wang • 1982 • United States
Starring Wood Moy, Marc Hayashi, Laureen Chew
A mystery man, a murder, and a wad of missing cash—in his wryly offbeat breakthrough, Wayne Wang updates the ingredients of classic film noir for the streets of contemporary San Francisco’s Chinatown. Whe...
Directed by Elliott Hong • 1982 • United States
Starring Johnny Yune, John Louie, Bill Capizzi
This unabashedly goofball martial-arts spoof gave an Asian American comedian a rare chance in the spotlight. Stand-up comic Johnny Yune stars as a Korean immigrant living in California whom everyone ca...
Directed by Wayne Wang • 1985 • United States
Starring Laureen Chew, Kim Chew, Victor Wong
Wayne Wang’s follow-up to his watershed indie CHAN IS MISSING is a family portrait that gracefully combines the director’s signature gentle humanism and eye for poignant detail. Offering another fresh pers...
Four neighbors form an uneasy alliance after a case worker from family court is accidentally killed in their building. With a gutsy sense of humor, this satiric comedy captures the chaos and cultural diversity of New York’s Lower East Side.
Directed by Pamela Tom • 1990 • United States
Starring Sala Iwamatsu
Doris Chu (Dian Kobayashi), a recently divorced Chinese American woman, has plastic surgery to make her eyes rounder. For her teenage daughter, Mei (Sala Iwamatsu), her mother’s two eyes equal two lies. When the family journeys...