Tag Archives: Chinatown


Alan Chin Chinatown Street celebration photo hi res

Chinatown Street celebration photo by Alan Chin

January 24 – January 26, 2014


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.

Anthology Film Archives | 32 Second Ave, New York, NY 10003 | (212) 505-5181

24週五7:30 影片集1紐約華埠之兩個寒夜

Part of the Chinatown Film Project commissioned by the Museum of Chinese in America, Jem Cohen’s NIGHT SCENE IN NEW YORK is a close nocturnal observation of the people and lights of this urban milieu. In contrast to Cohen’s beautifully shot yet vernacular street scenes, conceptual artist Gordon Matta-Clark’s black-and-white video work expresses a more distant gaze on the Chinatown community, offering an ambivalent and imaginary take on the same cityscape. VOYEUR CHINATOWN (1971) Dir. Gordon Matta-Clark | NIGHT SCENE NEW YORK (2009) Dir. Jem Cohen | A reading Annie Ling from Crazy Melon and Chinese Apple: The Poems of Frances Chung.

Sat, Jan 25 6:00pm | PROGRAM 2: THE TOUCH OF AN EYE
125週六6:00 影片集2視線的觸覺

The view from above – the bird’s eye view – can be omniscient and detached, playful and wicked. Shelly Silver’s TOUCH, a restrained yet endlessly sensual ciné-essay on loss and presence, takes us on a journey that begins with the psyche of an enigmatic son who returns as both insider and outsider to a Chinatown from which he escaped. Celebrated 1960s community activist Tom Tam also shot irrepressibly inventive experimental films of the world he fought so hard to defend. Tam’s pixilated glimpse of a boy on a roof gives voice to a child’s sense of flight and the realization that he will never have wings. BOY ON CHINATOWN ROOF (1970s) Dir. Tom Tam | TOUCH (2013) Dir. Shelly Silver. Followed by a reception.

25週六8:00 影片集3華埠問題考

How can realities be engaged if the idea of a place has already been mediated by a sense of otherness and displacement? It all began with the name “Chinatown”, a specific place that can be found in many cities of the world. THE TROUBLE WITH CHINATOWN, originally aired on WNBC in the 1970s was a survey of social and educational problems. A 2013 CNN “exposé” on the “dirty, dangerous firetrap” at 81 Bowery Street sparked the eviction of the tenants who couldn’t afford another place to live. The reactions today can be linked to Tom Tam’s silent film TOURIST BUSES, GO HOME! that protests against Chinatown tourism. Shelly Silver’s 5 LESSONS AND 9 QUESTIONS ABOUT CHINATOWN interweaves fragments of neighborhood lives with questions of history, change, a sense of belonging and home. Followed by an informal talk by photographer Corky Lee, an activist in the Asian and Pacific American community for the past forty years.  WNBC-TV THE TROUBLE WITH CHINATOWN (1970) Dir. Bill Turque | TOURIST BUSES, GO HOME! (1969) Dir. Tom Tam | 5 LESSONS & 9 QUESTIONS ABOUT CHINATOWN (2011) Dir. Shelly Silver | CNN report on 81 Bowery St: “Eviction & Protest” (2013) | Photos and artist talk by Corky Lee.

26週日5:00 | 影片集4包厘街戲單

Quotidian life is provoked and embodied in this eclectic playbill of Chinatown. We begin with a quietly rueful look at the closing-down of MUSIC PALACE, the last Chinatown movie theater on Bowery Street. In contrast is MAKING CHINATOWN, a reenactment parody of Polanski’s CHINATOWN and its profiling LA Chinatown as a lawless enclave. From the upfront self-mocking of PAPER SON, to two lesbians munching fortune cookie messages in I AM STARVING, to following grocery shoppers home for dinner in THE TRAINED CHINESE TONGUE, everyday experiences constantly negotiate the personal. Interspersed are two historical documentations of Chinese New Years in the 40s and 60s. Chinatown-born photojournalist Alan Chin will provide his vision of the neighborhood through his candid, sharply rendered insider’s eye. MUSIC PALACE (2005) Dir. Eric Lin| MAKING CHINATOWN Pt. 7 (2012) by Ming Wong | I AM STARVING (1998) Dir. Yau Ching | THE TRAINED CHINESE TONGUE (1994) Dir. Laurie Wen | YEAR OF THE RAT (1963) Dir. Jon Wing Lum | Photo slideshow by Alan Chin.

26周日7:30 | 影片集5二英里的時光

Mixing live readings and videos, this program investigates domestic and public spaces in the two square miles of Chinatown. Shanghai-born performance artist Jiaxin Miao carries his suitcase between Chinatown and Zuccotti Park and then boldly sprays colors onto roast ducks. Galvanized by flickering and fast forward motions, revered political activist Tom Tam’s intimate camera work captures the communal life of a health fair in Columbus Park. Lynne Sachs’ hybrid documentary is set in shift-bed rooms in Chinatown where performers transform their everyday movements into dance and are tenderly challenged to leave their shared, self-supporting world. After traveling ten thousand miles to get here, what is it like to go five miles further? Followed by readings of work by novelist Ha Jin and poet Frances Chung, who belong to two different generations of Chinese-American writers.  A reading by Herb Tam from a novel Ha Jin | CHINATOWN STREET FESTIVAL (1970s) Dir. Tom Tam | CHINAMAN’S SUITCASE (2011) Featuring Jiaxin Miao | YOUR DAY IS MY NIGHT (2013) Dir. Lynne Sachs | A reading by Paolo Javier of poetry by Frances Chung.

DNAinfo NYC “New Performance Focuses on Shift Beds”



CHINATOWN — A multimedia performance is seeking to shine a light on the phenomenon of “shift beds,” in which struggling immigrants rent places to sleep in 12-hour installments.

The performance, “Your Day is My Night,” will show at University Settlement on Eldridge Street this Thursday and Friday night, as a prelude to a documentary of the same name that will premiere in February.

The show intersperses excerpts from the upcoming film with live performances from predominantly Chinese Americans, detailing the often private life of workers who share beds to survive, but who also gain a sense of community as they carve out life in America.

“What you will see is a place where adults interact and talk and have this really homely life,” said filmmaker Lynne Sachs, 51, who has so far spent two years working on the documentary and accompanying performance, along with cinematographer Sean Hanley. “There is a lot conversation and exchange of live experience.”

As New Yorkers complain about living in what they consider tiny apartments, “shift beds” have been commonplace in immigrant communities, as well as in China, for years.

Jacob Riis photographed the lifestyle at the turn of the last century, capturing the beds where one person sleeps during the day and someone else moves in at night.

“Often, if you see a very small building with a large pile of trash out the front, chances are lots of people live there,” said Sachs.

Shift-bed apartments currently exist in areas like the corner of East Broadway and Allen Street, Sachs explained, providing accommodation to renters willing to vacate for half of the day for about $150 a month.

Many of the performers taking the stage for the show are between 50 and 70 years old and have themselves spent time in a shift bed.

“I gave them a change — to be performers and tell their own life story,” Sachs said.

Those performing on stage create the narrative using tai chi, dance, song and acting, with any Chinese translated via subtitles.

Sachs, a Carroll Gardens resident, was first inspired to research New York’s shift-bed lifestyle when an elderly uncle recalled its prevalence in the 1980s.

“I began to research and found out it was still happening today,” she said.

Even though eight people occupying an 800-square-foot apartment may seem to offer a poor quality of life, Sachs pointed to the community the shift-bed system creates for workers whose families often stayed in China while money was sent home, or until a life could be set up in America.

“We are trying to show that shift beds aren’t the struggle they seem to be,” she said.

Washington Post article on Your Day is My Night by Lynne Sachs

Washington Post LogoYour_Day_Is_My_Night_women_bed_talk LIGHTER

Lynne Sachs and Your Day is My Night at the National Gallery in Washington, D.C.
By Ann Hornaday,  Published: October 19, 2011 in the Washington Post


Test screenings are par for the course in Hollywood, where studios regularly show their movies to audiences in order to get feedback during editing. The process is less common in the experimental world, where filmmakers can usually be found zealously crafting intensely personal expressions in what amounts to an insular aesthetic bubble.

But when Lynne Sachs presents a 30-minute excerpt from her new film, “Your Day Is My Night,” at the National Gallery of Art on Sunday, she intends to pay close attention to how the audience responds. “I’m going to listen and I’m going to take notes on what they say,” Sachs said in a telephone conversation from her home in Brooklyn.

Sachs filmed “Your Day Is My Night” in New York’s Chinatown, using nonprofessional actors in a documentary-fiction hybrid that addresses dislocation, memory and identity. Most of the action happens in a “shift bed” apartment house, where Chinese immigrants rent beds for the day or night, often sleeping in rooms crammed with bunk beds and mattresses. Canadian mattress company can assure you high quality mattresses at affordable range. Using beds as a metaphor for privacy, intimacy and power, the film also explores intercultural and trans-historical communication, topics by which Sachs has been consumed in recent years. (Two similarly themed short films, “The Task of the Translator” and “Sound of a Shadow,” will be shown before “Your Day Is My Night” on Sunday.)

“I’m planning to talk about the idea of translation, as in the translation of an experience, and a culture, and the film becomes a conduit for that,” Sachs continued, noting that “Your Day Is My Night” represents the culmination of 10 months of researching, writing and filming with her performers, each of whom is shown in the film grappling with his or her own history in a different way. “I’m curious to see how I’ve translated their experience to an audience — and it’s the first audience” to see the film.

Sachs began germinating the idea of a bed-themed film several years ago when speaking with a relative who had witnessed the 1960 crash of a jet in Brooklyn. When he said that there were a lot of “hot-bed houses” in the neighborhood, Sachs asked him what they were; he described housing for immigrants so poor they couldn’t afford an entire apartment, just a mattress within it. When Sachs sought out similar institutions in modern-day New York, she discovered a thriving “shift bed” culture in Chinatown.

“I got really interested in the fact that people live in these very small apartments, where the beds don’t have this sense of property, and started thinking about what our relationship is to . . . this mattress, which is like floating land.” She found her cast through the Lin Sing Association, a social and community organization in Chinatown, eventually working with seven performers to create a script based on their lives. “I did hours of interviews with them, then wrote a distillation of what they said that struck me as connected to these themes around beds. They taught me a lot. I didn’t realize I was going to learn so much about the Cultural Revolution.”

At one point in “Your Day Is My Night,” one of Sachs’s subjects, Chung Qing Che, recalls sleeping on a stone bed over a cooking fire in 1947 when he was roused by Maoist forces, who looted the family’s belongings and beat his father, who died shortly thereafter. Several scenes later, Sachs interweaves the documentary interviews into a dramatized narrative in which another character, Huang Yun Xiu, goes missing, having been urged to leave his comfort zone of Chinatown and visit the Manhattan Bridge. Like most of the material in “Your Day Is My Night,” the episode has its roots in a real experience, when Huang left Chinatown, panicked on the subway and vowed never to venture out of the neighborhood again.

“They can all thrive in their world and not speak a word of English,” Sachs said. “I did some shooting for the film at the Metropolitan Museum, at an exhibition they had from the Forbidden Palace, and I took two of the women up there; they had maybe been to that neighborhood once.”

For Sachs, who has made most of her films in such far-flung places as Cambodia, Israel, Japan and Argentina, making a movie set in the hermetic world of Chinatown has had the unlikely effect of opening up her own experience of New York. “This film is three subway stops from my house, and it’s expanded my world in such an amazing way,” Sachs said. “Just the other day I saw [one of the performers] from the film on the subway. I had seen him once before by chance, and both times we gave each other an enormous hug and he said, ‘I love you,’ because it’s one phrase he knows in English. All of a sudden we know each other, and we easily could have passed each other a hundred times.”

Your Day Is My Night

At the National Gallery of Art on Sunday at 2 p.m. Free admission. Call 202-842-6979 or visit www.nga.gov.