Saga of Chinese Immigration


SEPARATE LIVES, BROKEN DREAMS explores one of America’s most notorious episodes in history. The Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882 denied Chinese laborers and their families from entering America and U.S. citizenship by naturalization. It was the first time in American history, that the "land of immigrants" specifically barred a race and class of people from its shores.

Public policy and immigration law are seen from the perspective of their impact on individual lives, generations of families, and entire communities. While Chinese men resided in a virtual "bachelor's society" in America, their wives existed as "living widows" stranded back in China. The children and grandchildren of these early Chinese immigrants begin to discover long-held "secrets" within their families. Acts of quiet desperation, outright defiance, and corruption by immigration officials are revealed in extremely detailed National Archive records. Though some wives and husbands finally share the joy of reunification after the repeal of the Exclusion Act, the disillusionment of reunification haunts still other relationships torn apart by decades of separation and hardship.

As public fears over the economy and cries for increased "protection of our borders" once again sweep the country, public debate continues to rise over immigration issues today. 120 years after the enactment of Chinese Exclusion, national memory can sometimes prove as dim or painfully clear as personal recollections.


SEPARATE LIVES, BROKEN DREAMS was originally produced and broadcast in 1993 to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the repeal of the Chinese Exclusion Act. At that time, it was also broadcast in Cantonese and Mandarin in the San Francisco Bay Area. Later, other CBS affiliates across the country, and public television station KCSM in San Mateo, CA, featured the program as well.

SEPARATE LIVES, BROKEN DREAMS received its national premiere at the Smithsonian Institution, where it served as the Opening Event for the 1994 Asian Pacific American Heritage Month celebrations in Washington, D.C. Its world premiere was at the Vermont International Film Festival (formerly the World Peace International Film Festival). The program has been honored with a Certificate of Merit at the Chicago International Film Festival, a 1994 CINE Golden Eagle Award, a San Francisco/Northern California Emmy Award for "Best Documentary", and a National Emmy Nomination from the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences.

SEPARATE LIVES, BROKEN DREAMS was an unprecedented collaboration and co-production between KPIX – Channel 5 (San Francisco, CA) and CACA (the National Grand Lodge of the Chinese American Citizens Alliance, the oldest National Civil Rights organization in the United States). Executive Producers are Dianne Fukami and Justice Harry Low. Produced by Director Jennie F. Lew and Producer Yvonne Y. Lee, the program included Donald Young as Associate Producer, Rick Lee as Principal Videographer, and Kelly Hendricks as Principal Editor.

The National Asian American Telecommunications Association (NAATA), with major funding by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB), is proud to sponsor a re-broadcast of SEPARATE LIVES, BROKEN DREAMS in a revised, longer public television format version.

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