DVD Review: Hollywood Chinese

May 9, 2011

Written, produced, directed and edited by award-winning filmmaker Arthur Dong, Hollywood Chinese chronicles a century of Chinese American images in film. The strength of this documentary lies in the personal accounts from well-known artists such as Nancy Kwan, Joan Chen, David Henry Hwang and Justin Lin. Historical topics covered include yellow face (The Good Earth, Charlie Chan), sex objects for white knights (The World of Suzie Wong), desexualized Asian males and images associated with triads or evil forces (Fu Manchu), all illuminating how Chinese-related images have mostly been marginalized as “the other.” The artists display a high level of self-awareness about artistic compromise and pandering, although they differ in reactions about their work, ranging from defending Hollywood’s “as long as it makes money” excuse to downplaying the impact of their images or responsibility and expressing guilt or frustration at the system. Ultimately, the documentary is as much about the history of Chinese images in Hollywood as it is about a history of exploitation by Hollywood and the lack of control Chinese Americans possess to define their own images. The DVD collection is loaded with hours of extras, including The Curse of Quon Gwon (c. 1916), the earliest-known feature film made by a Chinese American.

Directed by Arthur Dong

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Alvin Lin


Alvin Lin was born in Taipei, Taiwan and hails from New England. He blogs about Asian American pop culture, film, music, literature and politics, as well as relevant news around the world. He also writes for Imprint Talk. Alvin has degrees from Cornell and MIT.



I love this movie!