Shelly Silver

Title: 關於唐人街的五堂課與九個問題
5 lessons and 9 questions about Chinatown
Directed by Shelly Silver
Duration: 10:00
Language: Chinese, English
Subtitles: English, Chinese
Research: Teri Chien, Nina Lam
Translation: Jeremy Chien, Lu Yu
Voiceover: Lu Yu, Wai Ching Ho, Johnson Chong
Sound Mix: Ian Stynes, Great City Productions
Colour Correction: John Vladic, Deluxe New York
Producer: Karin Chien
Production date: 2009
Production country: USA
Archival Material: The National Archives, Museum of Chinese in America
Thanks: Tim Bell, Ed Bowes, Nancy Bulalacao, Cheng Hong Chen, KK Chen, Choi Ping Chin, Deanna Cao, Charles Lai, Baayork Lee, Yue Ma, Marc Silver, Ann Sun, Wendy Tong, Jenny Tran, Doreen Wang, Sam Whitsitt. NY Chinatown Senior Citizen Coalition Center

Commissioned by the Museum of Chinese in America for The Chinatown Film Project


5 lessons and 9 questions about Chinatown

You live somewhere, walk down the same street 50, 100, 10,000 times, each time taking in fragments, but never fully registering THE PLACE. Years, decades go by and you continue, unseeing, possibly unseen.

A building comes down, and before the next one is up you ask yourself ‘what used to be there?’ You are only vaguely aware of the district’s shifting patterns and the sense that, since the 19th century, wave after wave of inhabitants have moved through and transformed these alleyways, tenements, stoops and shops.

10 square blocks, past, present, future, time, light, movement, immigration, exclusion, gentrification, racism, history, China, America, 3 languages, 13 voices, 152 years, 17,820 frames, 9 minutes, 54 seconds, 9 questions, 5 lessons, Chinatown

Director’s Notes
I’ve lived in Chinatown, NYC for the last 25 years. Two years ago the Museum of Chinese in America commissioned me to make a short film about Chinatown for the opening of their newly renovated museum. As the Museum’s opening kept getting postponed, I kept shooting – finally ending up with 50 hours of footage for a film that had to be under 10 minutes.

Needless to say, I became overly ambitious. I felt compelled to talk of the past, present and future of this neighborhood, its complex linguistic texture, its vitality, as well as the tragedy of its history. Living here, watching the neighborhood go through drastic changes, pushed me to ask more universal questions. Who belongs in a neighborhood? Who should control a neighborhood? What does it mean to call a place ‘home’?

I could say that this is a short film about Chinatown. I could call it a reflection on a physical place. I could describe it as a collection of many questions and few answers organized into various approaches, all partial.

As one exploration/obsession leads to the next, I am currently working on a feature-length narrative essay on Chinatown called 觀 Watch


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