Documentary | 2009 | 57 mins | DVD | Closed Captioning
Director: Ruby Yang
Executive Producer: William Smock
Producer: Lambert Yam
Grade Levels: High school and up
Through a warm, intimate pastiche of multi-generational interviews and rare film clips (from both old Cantonese movies and early Chinese American works), Oscar-winning director Ruby Yang explores the evolving role of Chinatown movie theaters in San Francisco’s Chinese American community.
For generations of moviegoers, Chinatown theaters were a place to remember – or learn about – their roots, and to create bonds with family and community. In the 20’s and 30’s, the theater riveted Chinese bachelors and brought matrons to tears as they connected with China through Shanghainese cinema and Cantonese opera adaptations. In the 50’s, local Chinese actors shared live updates on political events in China before the beginning of a film.
The Chinatown theaters also presented affirming role models to combat the racism many found around them: in the 60’s Hong Kong musicals proved that Chinese kids could be cool, and in the 70’s Bruce Lee and the martial arts craze showcased a new vision of Chinese masculinity.
Produced by Lambert Yam (Yang’s husband, who for over ten years was the General Manager and programmer of the World Theatre, one of the premiere movie houses in San Francisco’s Chinatown), A MOMENT IN TIME includes interviews with many residents, artists and activists, as well as noted figures like director John Woo and cinematographer Christopher Doyle. While Chinatown’s theaters are now closed, their legacy remains.