Opening Night Film, 2019 CAAMFest
Big hair. Denim jackets. Funky glasses. Raised fists and protest signs that cheekily boast “CHINATOWN TOURS: SEE OUR FAMOUS SLUMS! RATS! CRIME!” These kids are scrappy, eloquent, and cool. Welcome to the political awakening of Asian America.
Father-son director duo Harry Chuck and Josh Chuck have accomplished a Herculean task. They have fine-toothed their way through Harry Chuck’s archival footage of community organizing totaling 10 hours and spanning the 1960s, ‘70s, and ‘80s in order to bring to life San Francisco Chinatown’s landmark battles for self-determination and civil rights. We’re talking glorious footage of busloads and busloads of elderly Chinese grandmas and grandpas packing city hall, youth activists challenging the comfy-sitting, banquet-eating businessmen of the “Chinatown establishment,” the Third World Liberation Front strikes at SFSU to demand the first Ethnic Studies department, and Filipino, Japanese, and Chinese Americans alike protesting the I-Hotel evictions. As an added gift for the audience, the community activists share their perspectives in interviews 45 years later, reflecting on their roles as organizers, reporters, students, youth service providers, and preachers.
CHINATOWN RISING is both a story of a son rekindling his father’s long-paused filmmaking dreams and the American history of a community that has been ignored by the government for decades. At times tear-jerking, funereal, and hopeful, CHINATOWN RISING reminds us that at the heart of sacrifice is love and at the heart of struggle is community. Because what else would all of this be for?
This film is supported by a California Documentary Project grant.