Arthur Dong’s Forbidden City, USA: Chinese American Nightclubs, 1936-1970 is a 2015 American Book Award winner, presented by the Before Columbus Foundation. The 2015 American Book Award winners will be formally recognized on Sunday, October 25th from 2:00-5:00 p.m. at the SF Jazz Center, Joe Henderson Lab, 201 Franklin Street (at Fell), San Francisco, CA. This event is open to the public. Click here for the full list of winners.
This weekend you have the opportunity to meet Dong, see a couple of his films, and get your very own autographed copy of Forbidden City, USA: Chinese American Nightclubs, 1936-1970, thanks to Asian CineVision who is presenting a tribute to the Oscar®-nominated and three-time Sundance award-winning filmmaker, during the Asian American International Film Festival in New York.
Highlights of the tribute include an on-stage conversation with Dong, as well as screenings of the new digitally remastered FORBIDDEN CITY, U.S.A. (1989), and his latest documentary THE KILLING FIELDS OF HAING S. NGOR. A film visionary who has earned a multitude of prestigious awards for not only his work in film, but also for his public service, Dong is known for his prowess in utilizing the art of film as a means to investigate social issues and examine undisclosed parts of Asian American and LGBT history and identity.
FORBIDDEN CITY, U.S.A. (1989)- Saturday, July 25th at Cinema Village East at 4:00 P.M.
Arthur Dong takes a glimpse into the lives of the performers of the Forbidden City, an all-Chinese nightclub in San Francisco in the 1930s and 40s. The film blends song and dance with more serious themes of racism and identity to showcase a group of performers willing to challenge cultural stereotypes. Dong’s compilation of original video footage with interviews with the aging performers offers viewers the chance to meet the “Chinese Fred Astaire” and the “Chinese Sophie Tucker,” pioneering Chinese-American entertainers.
FORBIDDEN CITY, U.S.A. has been digitally remastered from original film elements by the UCLA Film & Television Archive, revealing beautiful and crisp details never before seen.
“Forbidden City, U.S.A.” book signing with Arthur Dong will take place after the screening of the film in the lobby of Village Cinema East at 5:15 p.m. Click here for tickets.
CONVERSATION WITH ARTHUR DONG- Saturday, July 25th at Cinema Village East at 5:15 P.M.
The on-stage conversation with filmmaker Arthur Dong will be punctuated with clips from Dong’s oeuvre of award-winning films spanning over thirty years. This illuminating talk will cover the personal challenges and emotional thrills of creating artistic and socially relevant independent media. Click here for tickets.
THE KILLING FIELDS OF DR. HAING S. NGOR – Saturday, July 25th at Village Cinema East at 6:30 P.M.
Winner of the BEST DOCUMENTARY AUDIENCE AWARD at the Los Angeles Asian Pacific Film Festival, The Killing Fields of Dr. Haing S. Ngor chronicles a journey of love, loss and reconciliation, set against the backdrop of Cambodia’s Khmer Rouge reign of terror. Survivor Haing Ngor drew upon his own experiences as a war slave for “The Killing Fields,” winning an Oscar® for his first acting job. But he played his greatest role as the worldwide ambassador for justice in his homeland, only to be murdered in Chinatown Los Angeles – a case still surrounded by conspiracy theories. Through an inspired blend of original animation and rare archival material – anchored by Ngor’s richly layered autobiography – the years encapsulating the Khmer Rouge’s tyrannical rule over Cambodia are experienced though a politically charged transnational journey of loss and reconciliation.
Join Oscar® nominated director Arthur Dong and subjects from the film, Sophia Demetri (Ngor’s niece), Wayne Ngor (Ngor’s nephew), and Jack Ong (executive director of Ngor’s foundation) for the New York premiere. Click here for tickets.
BOOK TALK WITH ARTHUR DONG AND RECEPTION- Sunday, July 26, 2015 at 6:00 P.M.
AAIFF and Museum of Chinese in America are presenting a book talk and signing with award-winning writer/filmmaker Arthur Dong, who will introduce his book, Forbidden City, U.S.A. on Sunday, July 26th at 6:00 P.M. at MoCA, 215 Centre St, New York, NY 10013. Admission is Pay What You Wish. Suggested Donation: $10
Forbidden City, U.S.A. captures the magic and glamour of the Chinese American nightclub scene, which peaked in San Francisco during World War II. Previously unpublished personal stories, along with over four hundred stunning images and rare artifacts, are presented in this sexy and insightful chronicle of Asian American performers who defied racial and cultural barriers to pursue their showbiz dreams.
It was the mid-1930s: Prohibition was repealed and the Great Depression was waning. With a global conflict on the rise, people were out to drink, dine, dance, and see a show to forget their woes—and what a surprise for the world to behold an emerging generation of Chinese American entertainers commanding the stage in their own nightclubs. Forbidden City, USA reveals the sassy, daring, and sometimes heartbreaking memories of the dancers, singers, and producers who lived this story, and it weaves in a fascinating collection of photos, postcards, menus, programs, and yes, even souvenir chopsticks. Together they recreate a forgotten era, treating readers to a dazzling night on the town.
“Forbidden City, USA” is the culmination of Arthur Dong’s nearly thirty-year devotion to the topic of Chinese American nightclubs, originally inspired by his research for his documentary of the same name. I first met Arthur when he came to New York to interview dancer turned manager of Asian American talent Jadin Wong (my former manager) for the documentary. The tome is Dong’s virtual love letter to those who paved the way and made their mark for today’s Asian American performing artists.
“Forbidden City, USA: Chinese American Nightclubs, 1936-1970,” co-authored with his sister Lorraine Dong, features excerpts of interviews with Forbidden City owner Charlie Low; dancers Jadin Wong, Dottie Sun, Ivy Tam (Mrs. Charlie Low #4), Jackie Mei Ling, Jade Ling, Mary Mammon, Noel Toy, Tony Wing, Dorothy Toy and Paul Wing of Toy and Wing; singers Frances Chun, Larry Ching and Toy Yat Mar; and choreographer and producer Walton Biggerstaff.
In the mid-1930s Prohibition had been repealed and the Great Depression was waning. With a global conflict on the rise, people were out to drink, dine, dance, and see a show to forget their woes—and an emerging generation of Chinese American entertainers commanded the stage in their own nightclubs. “Forbidden City, USA” reveals the sassy, daring, and sometimes heartbreaking first-hand accounts of the dancers, singers, and producers who lived this story, and weaves in a fascinating collection of photos, postcards, menus, programs, and even souvenir chopsticks. Together they recreate a forgotten era, taking readers on a dazzling tour of the old “Chop Suey Circuit.”
The slideshow below features Contemporary photographs taken by Arthur Dong during the making of his documentary, alongside vintage glamour promotional images.
As a film student at San Francisco State University, Arthur Dong produced Sewing Woman, his Academy Award nominated short documentary in 1984. The film focused on his mother’s immigration to America from China. Instead of finding an outside distributer for the film, Dong then started his own company, DeepFocus Productions, and serves as its producer, director and writer. Dong has produced, directed, written, edited, and ﬁlmed independent ﬁlms on social issues such as gay rights and the Chinese American experience. A two-time Rockefeller Media Arts Fellow as well as a Guggenheim Fellow in Film, Dong has served on the boards of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, Film Independent, OutFest, and the National Film Preservation Board at the Library of Congress. In addition to the 1995 Peabody Award for his highly praised film “Coming Out Under Fire,” the honors include three Sundance Film Festival awards, an Oscar nomination, the Berlin Film Festival’s Teddy Award, Taipei’s Golden Horse Award, a GLAAD Media Award, and ﬁve Emmy nominations. Dong has taught documentary film around the world and his impact on the film industry is undeniable.
To learn more about the full schedule of events, visit http://aaiff.org/2015.
Festival Ticket Information
Tickets for general admission are $14. Tickets for seniors (65+), students and handicapped (must present valid ID) are $12. Tickets for ACV members and Community Partners are $10.50. Tickets will be available for purchase on the AAIFF website on Tuesday, June 23, 2015. For Opening, Centerpiece, and Closing Night Events, please check website for ticket details.
General Festival Information
The Asian American International Film Festival (AAIFF) is a presentation of Asian CineVision. The festival is a celebration of inspiring Asian and Asian American works in film and video from innovative artists around the world. AAIFF 2015 takes place July 23-August 1, 2015 in Manhattan and Queens. Manhattan venues include: Cinema Village East (181-189 2nd Avenue); Asia Society (725 Park Avenue); Museum of Chinese in America (215 Centre Street); Queens venues include: Museum of the Moving Image (36-01 35th Ave, Astoria); Queens Botanical Garden (43-50 Main Street, Flushing); and Flushing Town Hall (13735 Northern Boulevard, Flushing).
About Asian CineVision:
Asian CineVision (ACV) is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit media arts organization devoted to the development, exhibition, promotion, and preservation of Asian and Asian American film and video.
Lia Chang is an actor, a performance and fine art botanical photographer, and an award-winning multi-platform journalist. Lia has appeared in the films Wolf, New Jack City, A Kiss Before Dying, King of New York, Big Trouble in Little China, The Last Dragon and Taxman. She has guest starred on “One Life to Live,” “As the World Turns,” and “New York Undercover.” She is profiled in Jade Magazine.
#AAIFF2015 Tribute to Arthur Dong- Screenings of THE KILLING FIELDS OF HAING S. NGOR and FORBIDDEN CITY, U.S.A., plus an on-stage conversation, July 25-26
2015 Asian American International Film Festival Lineup, July 23-Aug. 1
April 26: The 31st Annual Los Angeles Asian Pacific Film Festival (LAAPFF) Artist Spotlight- Arthur Dong’s FORBIDDEN CITY, U.S.A. and THE KILLING FIELDS OF DR. HAING S. NGOR
CAAMFest 2015 Honors Filmmaker Arthur Dong with World Premiere Screenings of Forbidden City, USA (3/14), The Killing Fields of Dr. Haing S. Ngor (3/15) & In Conversation with B. Ruby Rich (3/20)
April 23-30: The Los Angeles Asian Pacific Film Festival (LAAPFF) Lineup includes EVERYTHING BEFORE US, KTOWN COWBOYS, Shonali Bose’s MARGARITA, WITH A STRAW, Jennifer Phang’s ADVANTAGEOUS, Arthur Dong’s FORBIDDEN CITY, U.S.A. and THE KILLING FIELDS OF DR. HAING S. NGOR
Other articles by Lia Chang
BIG TROUBLE IN LITTLE CHINA Cast Reunion featured in BLACK BELT MAGAZINE August/September 2015
Video Promo: Ken Jeong stars in ABC’s “Dr. Ken”
André De Shields in CONFESSIONS OF A P.I.M.P., Black Stars of the Great White Way anniversary concert at NBTF and Broadway-Bound GOTTA DANCE
Q & A with Jose Llana, the new King of Siam in LCT’s Tony Award-Winning Revival of The King and I
Photos and Video:’The Visit’ Broadway cast performance and CD signing at Barnes & Noble with Chita Rivera, John Kander, Graciela Daniele and Co.
Drumhead Magazine: Living Colour Drummer Will Calhoun, Photos by Lia Chang
Photos: #EmptyMet Tour with Chief Digital Officer Sree Sreenivasan
China: Through the Looking Glass Exhibition Extended through September 7 at Metropolitan Museum
Photos:Lunch with Tony Winner Lea Salonga and George Takei, Stars of ALLEGIANCE
Behind the Scenes of the Asian American Film Lab’s 72 Hour Shootout with Lia Chang, Garth Kravits, Evan Daves and Alicia Manns in HIDE AND SEEK
Photos: The 11th Annual 72 Hour Shootout Filmmaking Launch Party at The Korea Society; TWO FACES is this year’s theme
Photos: Traveling through the mouth of the Dragon with BIG TROUBLE IN LITTLE CHINA’s James Hong, Peter Kwong, Lia Chang, Gerald Okamura, George Cheung, Al Leong, Jeff Imada, James Lew, Gary Goldman, Eric Lee
Coming to America through The Angel Island Immigration Station
Crafting a Career
Click here for the Lia Chang Articles Archive and here for the Lia Chang Photography Website.
All text, graphics, articles & photographs: © 2000-2015 Lia Chang Multimedia. All rights reserved. All materials contained on this site are protected by United States copyright law and may not be reproduced, distributed, transmitted, displayed, published or broadcast without the prior written permission of Lia Chang. You may not alter or remove any trademark, copyright or other notice from copies of the content. For permission, please contact Lia at firstname.lastname@example.org