One of the few American films that address the story of Burmese immigrants, All Saints is based on the true story of refugees who settle in a small Tennessee town and help revive a Christian church.
It was a stroke of luck that the filmmaker Evan Leong was working on a documentary of budding basketball star Jeremy Lin from his college days and followed his progress into the NBA. When Lin joined the New York Knicks, he led the flailing team on an unprecedented streak of wins, and sparked a wave of swooning “Linsanity” from his fans — as well as a wave of hatred from racists.
Frank Wong and Tommy Wong in "The Search for General Tso" documentary.
Courtesy Everett Collection
The Search for General Tso (2014)
This tasty documentary is a collaboration between director Ian Cheney and coproducer Jennifer 8 Lee, who wrote a book, “The Fortune Cookie Chronicles,” about the history of American Chinese food. The film notes the ubiquitous popularity of a dish called General Tso’s Chicken in almost every Chinese restaurant in the U.S., which isn’t served at all in China. Along the way, Cheney (and Lee) give a fascinating history of how the food Americans consider “Chinese” evolved and how it’s not really the same cuisine that’s served in China.
A moving, beautiful profile of Tyrus Wong, the Chinese American painter who worked for Disney in the studio’s glory days, painting the gorgeous background watercolors of classic movies like Bambi, for which he was lead artist, in a classical Chinese style. Wong lived to see Tyrus but passed away in 2016 at the age of 106.
Thomas Sung in the "Abacus: Small Enough To Jail."
Courtesy Everett Collection
Abacus: Small Enough to Jail (2017)
A documentary that grips viewers like a crime thriller — except there was no crime. In the midst of the financial crash of 2008, when the country’s biggest banks were deemed “too big to fail,” only one bank, the family-owned Abacus Federal Savings Bank in New York’s Chinatown, was prosecuted with the full weight of the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office charging its officers and subjecting them to a humiliating “perp walk” as if they were a gang of serial murderers. The film follows the Sung family’s travails and the trial of the bank that was “small enough to jail.” The racist overtones, cultural insensitivity and the economic privilege that isn’t extended to Abacus are striking. The film was nominated for an Oscar at this year’s Academy Awards.
Hollywood Chinese (2007)
AAPI documentarian Arthur Dong has preserved the history of institutions like the Chinese nightclub in San Francisco’s Chinatown, Forbidden City, USA. In Hollywood Chinese, Dong takes an epic sweep of the history of Chinese in Hollywood. He focuses on stereotypes and hardships like overcoming the “yellow-face” of white actors playing Chinese roles, but he also chronicles forgotten gems such as the earliest Chinese film in America, The Curse of Qwon Gwon (1916) and the triumph of current cinema, and directors like Ang Lee. Stars of today and the past are interviewed in the film and give it a personal perspective.