Wednesday night on PBS, WNET’s American Masters presents the national premier of “Hollywood Chinese,” the highly acclaimed documentary that tells the story of Chinese-American cinematic history. “From the sexed-up Suzie Wong to the kung fu fighting Bruce Lee,” the 90-minute film sheds light on this little-known and sometimes painful, but important chapter in filmmaking history.
Produced, directed, written and edited by Academy Award nominee and three-time Sundance award-winning filmmaker Arthur Dong, “Hollywood Chinese” chronicles Hollywood’s fascination with the Far East and its racial prejudices by studying early films like “The Good Earth” (1937) and more recent features like “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon” (2000).
“It’s my journey into the world of Hollywood moviemaking, to discover how stories and images of the Chinese fit within an entertainment industry that mixes art with commerce, a universal art form that affects the way we see each other and ourselves,” Dong notes. “I didn’t set out to produce a definitive encyclopedic treatment of the topic, but rather, a trip through Hollywood as seen through the lens of …Chinese and Chinese-American film artists — as well as some non-Asians who played Chinese in yellow-face.”
The documentary features interviews with actors, directors and writers, including Joan Chen (“The Last Emperor”), James Hong (“Big Trouble in Little China,” “Blade Runner”), David Henry Hwang (“M. Butterfly”), Ang Lee (“Brokeback Mountain,” “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon”), Wayne Wang (“Smoke”), Christopher Lee (“Fu Man Chu”) and Amy Tan (“The Joy Luck Club”), among several others, and clips from more than 90 movies.