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One Way, or “the Other”: Asian American Film and Video

Wednesday, December 5, 2007
7:30 p.m. Chan Is Missing
Wayne Wang (U.S., 1982)

PFA Preservation Print

In 1982, Chan Is Missing was a runaway hit, touted as the first all–Chinese American feature film and costing a mere $20,000. Unlike the plot, Chan’s success was no mystery at all. It was as irreverent as its Charlie Chan parody, and offered a glimpse of Chinatown that was refreshingly authentic. After two taxi drivers, the wily Jo (Wood Moy) and his number one son, or in this case, nephew, Steve (Marc Hayashi), have given Chan four large for a cab medallion, Chan takes it on the lam. To strains of “Rock Around the Clock” sung in Cantonese, the de facto detectives journey into San Fran’s labyrinthine Chinatown, but Chan, the elusive flim-flam man, remains off-frame, his identity as misty as the City’s famed fog. Jo and his wisecrackin’ companion dredge up a wok full of wonder—ABCs vs. FOBs, Nationalists vs. Maoists, inscrutable traditionalists vs. chow meinstreamers. Eventually, Jo gets to the koan-like point, “What kind of Chinese Chinese are you?” Chan is not a mystery. It’s a puzzle.

—Steve Seid

• Written by Wang, Isaac Cronin, Terrell Seltzer. Photographed by Michael Chin. With Wood Moy, Marc Hayashi, Laureen Chew, Peter Wang. (80 mins, B&W, 35mm, PFA Collection, permission Wayne Wang)

Preceded by short:
Some Questions for 28 Kisses (Kip Fulbeck, U.S., 1994) is a forceful but farcical tour through the ethnic fetishes of Hollywood cinema. (8:30 mins, Mini-DV, From Video Data Bank)

• (Total running time: 89 mins)