“Who is American?” will foster greater public understanding and dialogue about the history and impact of the 1882 Chinese Exclusion Act, a landmark, little known piece of federal legislation that reshaped American law, foreign policy and civic life.
“What made the Chinese survive the most difficult conditions in this country is mainly their identification with American founding principles, and also their faith in themselves, and they refused to be excluded.“– Renqui Yu (Professor of History, SUNY-Purchase)
CAAM is one of the co-producers of and is leading the educational outreach for the new PBS documentary film THE CHINESE EXCLUSION ACT by award-winning documentary filmmakers Ric Burns and Li-Shin Yu of Steeplechase Films.
Join CAAM’s campaign to distribute free educational resources and host community screenings to reach thousands of students, teachers, and community members in support of the film THE CHINESE EXCLUSION ACT.
ABOUT THE CHINESE EXCLUSION ACT FILM
THE CHINESE EXCLUSION ACT will have its broadcast premiere on the acclaimed PBS series American Experience during APA Heritage Month in May 2017. This two-hour film documents in fascinating detail the events leading to, causes of, consequences, and continuing impact of the only federal legislation in United States history ever to single out and name a specific race and nationality for exclusion from immigration and citizenship.
This film sheds a light on the important connections between the Chinese Exclusion Act and the history of American civil liberties, immigration, and culture. By examining the socio-economic and geo-political forces that led to the Act, the film will uncover its unmistakable and wide-ranging consequences on national attitudes towards race, culture, politics, and society. At its core, this is a film about American identity, tracing the arc of what has defined being American from the time the United States was a fledgling republic through its astronomical rise as a world superpower.
“The 1882 Exclusion Law has been forgotten, but once we remember it, it is outrageous. And it’s probably why we’ve forgotten it because it is so outrageous. … How can this country, in its culture, in its politics, in its economics, do what it did against a whole class of people?” – Jack (John Kuo Wei) Tchen (Founding Director, A/P/A Institute at NYU)
The film guides viewers through the hardships and racial animosities that Chinese Americans faced throughout the duration of the law, including educational segregation, forced registration, and lynchings. THE CHINESE EXCLUSION ACT also reveals a forgotten history of Chinese American resilience and resistance to the 15 laws enacted by the federal government, as well as those passed at the state and local levels. By challenging the constitutionality of these laws and the affronts to their civil rights through community organizing, civil disobedience, and the courts system, Chinese Americans brought 10,000 cases to federal courts and set a number of legal precedents that remain intact today. Through the lens of the Chinese Exclusion Act, a wider, deeply American story comes to life, one that embodies the issues of globalization, immigration, labor, and civil rights that continue to dominate headlines today.
The film includes powerful and illuminating on-camera testimony from historians Erika Lee (University of Minnesota), Mary Ting Yi Lui (Yale University), Mae Ngai (Columbia University), Jean Pfaelzer (University of Delaware), Kevin Starr (USC-Dornsife), Jack (John Kuo Wei) Tchen (Founding Director, A/P/A Institute at NYU), Ling-Chi Wang (UC Berkeley), K. Scott Wong (Williams College), Renqiu Yu (SUNY-Purchase), along with Phillip Choy (architect, historian and archivist), Michael C. Lin (Chairman, 1882 Project), David Lei (cultural advocate), and Martin Gold (attorney and author).
“Who is American?” Educational Outreach for the PBS Documentary THE CHINESE EXCLUSION ACT crowdfunding campaign
From August – September 2016, we hosted a crowdfunding campaign that raised over $76,267 from over 415 people in support of this film. Our crowdfunding campaign was the first step of our larger goal to raise $400,000 to complete the creation, development and execution of our national strategy to provide educational curriculum about the Chinese Exclusion Act and host educational screenings of the film to students and teachers across the nation from 2017-2018.
We appreciate everyone who shared this campaign and film with their friends, relatives and networks. Thanks to each of you, more people now know about this landmark, little known piece of federal legislation and why it is relevant to understanding the American experience – past, present, and future.
Jocelyn S. Carter
Ronald K. Chan and Jane G. Chan
Peter W. Chen
Norman and Candice Eng
May and George Koo
Jeff and Melvina Lee
Kitty L. Lew
Nancy Lim Yee and Edmund Yee
Natalie Hom Oyung
Judy S. Sit
Penelope and Rossi Snipper
Calvin and Fay Taam
Kan and Anna Toy
Cecilia Tso Warner
Brenda Hee Wong
Donald and Margaret Wong
*List of donors from Thursday, August 18- December 19, 2016.
In this exclusive behind the scenes interview, THE CHINESE EXCLUSION ACT directors Ric Burns and Li-Shin Yu share what inspired them to tell the story of The Chinese Exclusion Act and how knowing this history can help all Americans better understand the American Experience.
Ric Burns (Director)
Six-time Emmy Award-winning director Ric Burns has been creating historical documentaries for public television for over 20 years. He began his career co-writing and producing the celebrated PBS series The Civil War (1990) with his brother Ken and Geoffrey C. Ward, and has since directed over 30 hours of award-winning films. Among his body of work are some of some of the most distinguished programs in the public television series American Experience and American Masters. 2015 saw the release three films by Burns: American Ballet Theatre: A History, which chronicles the rich history and legacy of America’s only national ballet company, Debt of Honor, which examines how the American government and society have regarded disabled veterans throughout history, and The Pilgrims which brings to life the story of the men and women of the Mayflower, uncovering the forces, circumstances, personalities and events that converged to propel their crossing to the New World. Burns was educated at Columbia University and Cambridge University. He lives in New York City with his wife and two sons.
Li-Shin Yu (Director)
Li-Shin Yu, a New York-based film editor, has collaborated with Director Ric Burns for the past twenty-three years and is co-directing The Chinese Exclusion Act. Yu and Burns are best known for their epic series NEW YORK: a documentary film, an eight-part production chronicling the city’s rise from a remote Dutch outpost to the cultural and economic center of the world, for which Yu received a Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Achievement in Editing. Their most recent film The Pilgrims, brings to life the story of the men and women of the Mayflower with a stunning performance by the late actor Roger Rees as William Bradford. Yu’s other films with Burns include: Enquiring Minds: The Untold Story of the National Enquirer, Death and the Civil War, Into the Deep: America, Whaling & the World, We Shall Remain: Tecumseh’s Vision, Andy Warhol, Eugene O’Neill, Ansel Adams, and The Way West. Their films have garnered multiple awards including Emmys, Peabodys, Writer’s Guild of America, Dupont-Columbia awards amongst many others. Yu began her career collaborating with other New York independent filmmakers including Jim Jarmusch, Spike Lee, Sara Driver and Peter Wang and more recently with documentarians Christine Choy, Bill Moyers, Thomas Lennon and Stanley Nelson amongst others.
Robin Espinola (Producer)
Robin Espinola is a producer and writer who has been working on historical programs for public television for over twenty years. With Ric Burns and Steeplechase Films, she has produced five programs for the AMERICAN EXPERIENCE series, including: The Chinese Exclusion Act; The Pilgrims; Death and the Civil War; Into the Deep: America, Whaling & the World; and Eugene O’Neill. With Steeplechase Films she also produced Nueva York, a short film for museum exhibition on the history of Latinos in New York. She served as a co-producer for Andy Warhol: A documentary film for the American Masters series. Espinola began working at Steeplechase Films as series archivist for the acclaimed multi-part series NEW YORK: a documentary film. In 2004, Espinola was awarded a News and Documentary Emmy Award for Excellence in the Craft of Research (with Michael Beschloss and Bruce Kennedy) for a Discovery program on Lyndon Johnson and the Civil Rights Act. Espinola’s additional research and production credits include Vote for Me: Politics in America; Malcolm X: Make it Plain (directed by Orlando Bagwell); The Rise and Fall of Jim Crow; George Wallace: Settin’ the Woods on Fire; Blackside’s Great Depression series, and two seasons of the PBS history game show “Where in Time is Carmen Sandiego?” Espinola received a BA from Brown University in American Civilization and Semiotics.
CENTER FOR ASIAN AMERICAN MEDIA
Stephen Gong (Executive Producer for CAAM)
Stephen Gong is the Executive Director of the Center for Asian American Media (CAAM). Stephen has been associated with CAAM since its founding in 1980, and has served as Executive Director since 2006. His previous positions in arts administration include: Deputy Director of the Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive at the University of California, Berkeley; Program Officer in the Media Arts program at the National Endowment for the Arts; and Associate Director of the National Center for Film and Video Preservation at the American Film Institute.
Donald Young (Producer for CAAM)
Donald Young is Director of Programs for the Center for Asian American Media (CAAM). He oversees all of CAAM’s program areas, including CAAMFest, funding for filmmakers, national productions, and public television strategies. Donald has developed and produced numerous programs for the PBS prime time schedule, most recently “Off the Menu: Asian America” by Grace Lee and Gotham Award-winning “Jake Shimabukuro: Life on Four Strings” by Tadashi Nakamura. Upcoming projects include MacArthur Foundation grantee “Daze of Justice” by Michael Siv, and Doris Duke Foundation supported Muslim Youth Voices with Musa Syeed, and a multi-part series on Asian American history co-produced with WETA. Donald has also produced independent feature films, including “The Princess of Nebraska” by Wayne Wang, which premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival. Donald has been a panelist for the Sundance Documentary Fund, the Independent Television Service (ITVS), the International Documentary Association (IDA), and many more. In addition, he has been a Board member for Cal Humanities, National Association of Media Arts and Culture (NAMAC), and the Chinese Culture Center of San Francisco.
Use the hashtags #WhoisAmerican and #StoriestoLight on social media.
IN THE NEWS
CAAM to develop “Who is American?” Public Engagement project and they need your help (YOMYOMF, August 15, 2016)
Support the Discussion About The Chinese Exclusion Act (Resonate, August 17, 2016)
CAAM to Launch “Who is American?” Education Campaign on Chinese Exclusion Act (NBC Asian America, August 18, 2016)
Make an Impact with CAAM “The Chinese Exclusion Act” Educational Outreach (NBC Bay Area, September 6, 2016)
In search of scapegoats, exclusion past and present (San Francisco Chronicle, September 9, 2016)
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