WE LANDED/I WAS BORN/PASSING BY: NEW YORK’S CHINATOWN ON SCREEN
January 24 – January 26
Whether you see Chinatown as a place or a state of mind, a purgatory or an oasis, a shrinking immigrant community or an expanding business district, its presence in our cinematic imagination is enormous. Situated north of NYC’s Wall Street, east of the Tombs, west of the old Jewish Ghetto, and mostly south of Canal, the neighborhood that began in the mid-19th century has maintained its distinct character – savory, hardscrabble, succulent, and cacophonous.
WE LANDED/I WAS BORN/PASSING BY explores a provocative array of images of the community from the 1940s to the present day. By embracing the perspectives of grassroots activists, performance artists, conceptual visionaries, home-movie makers, punk horror devotees, and journalists, the series raises questions about how we look at the neighborhood and how its representations have reciprocally shaped our imagination. Who lived in Chinatown at the beginning? Who lives there now? How and why has it changed? What language best describes Chinatown? Whose voices do we hear?
Inspired by the fabulously observant 1960s poetry of Chinatown’s very own Frances Chung, this 5-part film series looks at the streets, desires, shops, and struggles of an iconic community that only begins to reveal its stories when the most obvious outer layers are pulled back. Comprised of documentaries, archival footage, home videos, literary readings, photography, and performance, the series rings in Chinese New Year by opening a window to both early and contemporary conditions. Through it all, geography, memory, and observation compress and expand the imaginary and the real of this beloved section of the Big Apple.
Curated by Lesley Yiping Qin, Lynne Sachs, Bo Wang, and Xin Zhou.
We are grateful to the New York Public Library for allowing us to screen 16mm film prints of THE TROUBLE WITH CHINATOWN and THE YEAR OF THE RAT, to Electronic Arts Intermix for VOYEUR CHINATOWN, and to the Museum of Chinese in America for various home movies. Special thanks to David Callahan and Elena Rossi-Snook (Reserve Film and Video Collection at the New York Public Library), Antony Wong (Asian American/Asian Research Institute-CUNY), and Amanda Katz.