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SF Urban Film Fest event graphic for Chinatown Rebels series at Edge

Chinatown Rebels

April 19, 2024

Artists: Shirley Yumeng, Curtis Choy, Loni Ding

Collaborator: SF Urban Film Festival


Post-1906 earthquake redevelopment shaped SF Chinatown's facades into a caricatured tourist attraction, perpetuating stereotypes for the white colonial gaze. Nonetheless, this ingenious tourism strategy stopped the City leaders from moving Chinatown permanently to the outskirts and preserved Chinatown as an enduring immigrant haven. Half a century later, amid the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965, the Civil Rights Movement, the fight for the I-Hotel and Golden Dragon massacre of 1977, Chinatown had a cultural awakening and the Disneyland-like facades were met with renewed discontent.  


Chinatown Rebels brings together three defiant gestures in film and television that challenge Chinatown's tourist gaze and stereotypes. "Dupont Guy: The Schiz of Grant Ave'' (1976) by Curtis Choy and "Bean Sprouts'' (1980) by Loni Ding reflect the anxieties and hope of 1970s’ Chinatown, grappling an increasingly multicultural and multinational San Francisco, while embodying the ambiguities of Chinese-ness, Chinese America, and Chinatown. Student film "Fortune" (2023) by Shirley Yumeng, offers an intimate glimpse into one of Chinatown's beloved Ross Alley; once emblematic of the bachelor society and its subversions, Ross Alley now stands as a testament to Chinatown's evolving identity. 


Today, with new developments in the neighborhood, Chinatown is once again at a crossroad. Join us on the iconic Chinatown Grant Avenue (Aka “Dupont Street”) for a film screening and panel discussion led by Chinatown community and culture shapers. Engage with the planning and visioning of the nation’s oldest Chinatown, a place that continues to reinterpret and reinvent itself; exemplifying and inspiring the festival’s theme of rooted resurgence.


RSVP here!


Fortune, USA, 2023, Shirley Yumeng  (5 min) 

Through an embodied camera eye that moves freely in the in-between place that is an alley connecting two streets, the film evokes a sense of magical realism which gives texture to the meditation on the Chinese-American identity, which can also be characterized as a liminal space.


Dupont Guy: The Schiz of Grant Ave, USA, 1976, Curtis Choy  (35 min)

WHO WE ARE forms the unifying theme of “Dupont Guy”. It affirms the legitimacy of Chinese-American (nee Chonk) culture, exploring cross-cultural currents of San Francisco’s Chinatown: assimilation, self-contempt, schizophrenic language, duplicitous behavior (Manilatown Media). It received the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences Documentary Award in 1975. In reviewing the film, Hua Hsu, author of the memoir Stay True, says “A punk energy courses through the frenetic, crass, utterly absorbing film essay that conveys the complicated psyche and din of Chinatown.“  Although the “Fall of the I-Hotel” is one of the most recognized films by Curtis Choy, “Dupont Guy”’s poetic urgency is a call to action that reverberates in the present moment.  


Bean Sprouts, Episode 4, USA, 1980, Loni Ding (29 min)  

A five-part narrative series aired featuring Chinese American children and their friends, dealing with themes of personal identity, intercultural contacts and generational relations in the settings of school, family and community. It set a precedent for Sesame Street. She made the short series for teachers and Chinese activists who wanted the children “ to see a little bit of themselves in their natural setting,” Ding said in a 1992 interview.


  1. Moderator: Fay Darmawi, Founder and Executive Director, SF Urban Film Fest

  2. Panelist: Hoi Leung, Deputy Director and Head Curator, Chinese Culture Center

  3. Panelist: Joanne Lee, Executive Director, Edge on the Square 

  4. Panelist: Stephen Gong, Executive Director, Center for Asian American Media

  5. Panelist: Cynthia Huie, Owner, On Waverly

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