After short-lived attempts in the silent era to establish an Asian-American Cinema, for most of the in the first and second halves of the studio era, Hollywood single-handedly created and controlled almost all celluloid images of Asian-Americans. With the beginnings of Asian-American theater in the 1960s and its growth in the 1970s coinciding with the decline of the Hollywood studio system, all that began to change with the rebirth of Asia-American Cinema, albeit slowly at first. Only in the 1990s and 2000s has a large and diverse Asian-American cinema, Asian-American theater and Asian-American comedy scene truly flourished -- offering a viable alternative to Hollywood's continued stereotypes and ongoing homogeneity.
THE CHANGING FACE OF ASIAN-AMERICA IN THE '70S
In the 1970s, more than 130,000 refugees arrived from Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam, drastically changing the make-up of the Asian-American population. Broadly speaking, this wave of immigrants had more in common socio-economically speaking with most blacks, Latinos and Natives; therein challenging the mid '60s-born concept of Asians as "the model minority."
GROWTH OF ASIAN-AMERICAN THEATER '70S
The growth of Asian-American theater provided an outlet for APA Actors who found themselves out of work in Hollywood after a brief post-war fetishistic period in the studio era. During the decade, new APA theater groups including New York's Pan Asian Repertory Theatre and Asian American Theater Company and San Francisco's Theatre of Yugen encouraged a new generation to pursue acting. As a result, first time in many years Asian-Americans began to appear on TV and films in increasing numbers, in roles that occasionally challenged the stereotypes and bit parts they'd been relegated to in mainstream America.
APA TV IN THE '70S
On TV in the '70s, Hawaiia Five-0, Kung-Fu and M*A*S*H often featured Asian-American actors, albeit most often in non-recurring bit parts. However, Mr. T & Tina, starring Pat Morita, became only the second American TV series to star an Asian-American actor. Frank Chin's Year of the Dragon and Wakako Yamauchi's And the Soul Shall Dance were both adapted for television productions from plays.
BEGINNINGS OF APA CINEMA IN THE '70S
Following the popularity of San Francisco-born Bruce Lee, many APA actors found themselves cast in martial arts-centered roles and still usually as portraying foreigners rather than Americans. But with the rebirth of Asian-American Cinema (actually made by Asian-Americans) that would begin to change.
Robert Akira Nakamura
In 1970, Robert Akira Nakamura founded Visual Communications, which is today the oldest community-based media arts center in the US. The acclaimed filmmaker and teacher is sometimes known as“the Godfather of Asian American media.” Nakamura was previously a photojournalist who switched to documentary film, Manzanar (1972), an examination of the wartime internment of Japanese-Americans.
In 1974, Loni Ding produced and directed Willie Lobo: Manchild about a black Vietnam vet. It was the first feature film directed by an Asian-American since (coincidentally, another Chinese-American female) Marion Wong's The Curse of Quon Gwon in 1916.
In 1976, Curtis X Choy (aka Chonk Moonhunter) began directing documentaries, beginning with Dupont Guy – The Schiz of Grant Avenue, an examination of Chinese-American culture.
In 1978, the Asian American International Film Festival (AAIFF) was founded in New York City.
Before long, other Asian-Americans filmmakers followed in these pioneers' footsteps, telling stories with their own voices and offering a growing alternative to Hollywood.
APA ACTORS OF THE 70s
Art Malik Christina Kokubo Clyde Kusatsu
Dana Lee Evan C. Kim Freda Foh Shen
George Cheung Haunani Minn James Saito
Joan Chen Keenan Shimizu Ken Narasaki
Marilyn Tokuda Michael Paul Chan Moe Keale
Peter Kwong Ranjit Chowdhry Richard Lee-Sung
Rosalind Chao Sab Shimono Shizuko Hoshi
Takayo Fischer Tzi Ma Wood Moy
APA RELATED FILMS OF THE '70S:
Not pictured: Chinatown 2-Step and Kung Fu (both 1972) Pieces of a Dream (1973) I Told You So, Judgement - The Court Martial of the Tiger of Malaya - General Yamashita, Men of the Dragon, Omai Fa'atasi - Samoa Mo Samoa and To Be Me - Tony Quon (all 1974) City, City, The Journey, Kites and Other Tales and Wataridori - Birds of Passage (all 1975) Farewell to Manzanar (1976) And the Soul Shall Dance (1978) and When Hell Was in Session (1979)
APA GROWTH IN THE '80S
APA THEATER IN THE '80S
On the stage, David Henry Hwang's play M. Butterfly was the first Asian-American play to appear on Broadway. Other successful Asian playwrights followed, including Philip Kan Gotanda and Velina Hasu Houston. New APA theaters were founded too, including Cold Tofu Arts and Entertainment/Theatre in Los Angeles, New York's Ma-Yi Theater Company and National Asian American Theatre Company, and the Asian Story Theater in San Diego.
ASIAN HOLLYWOOD IN THE '80S
Whilst in Hollywood most Asian males were invariably cast as fortune-cookie mystics and ninjas, a new stereotype emerged for younger Asian males; the studious, awkward and almost always heavily-accented Asian nerd (e.g. Long Duck Dong, Data Wang, Toshiro Takashi, Vinh Kelly, &c). One notable exception to the young Asian nerd stereotype in Hollywood is Dustin Nguyen as Harry Truman Ioki on 21 Jump Street. In 1987, Pat Morita stars on the TV show Ohara, the third series with an Asian lead.
APA CINEMA IN THE '80S
Asian American media arts organizations including Los Angeles' Visual Communications and New York's Asian CineVision began producing Asian American works.
Wayne Wang Steve Okazaki
Wayne Wang's Chan is Missing, made in 1982, although not the first APA film, ushered in a new era. Not only was this feature film directed by an Asian-American, but it was the first to feature a mostly Asian-American cast since 1961's Flower Drum Song. But unlike that film, it was also made for a largely Asian-American audience and therefore didn't engage in exotification, dehumanization or fetishization intrinsic to Hollywood portrayals.
Jon Moritsugu Gregg Araki Roddy Bogawa
Several independent Asian-American directors began their career shortly after: Jon Moritsugu, Gregg Araki, Peter Wang, Roddy Bogawa and Steven Okazaki. Whereas some films, like Peter Wang's A Great Wall, followed the fairly formulaic traditions of the "assimilation drama," focusing on inter-generational conflict within Asian-America, the films of the so-called Bad Boys (Moritsugu, Araki and Bogawa) -- when they dealt with race -- generally favored an approach to the subject that was, at most, eliptical. The '80s were also the first documentaries began to appear that dealt with the indignities suffered by Asian-Americans in the past.
Christine Choy Renee Tajima-Peña
In the world of documentaries, Christine Choy debuted with 1984’s Mississippi Triangle, about black, white and Chinese-Americans in the delta. Renee Tajima-Peña made her directorial debut with collaboration with Choy, Who Killed Vincent Chin?
APA ACTORS WHOSE CAREERS BEGAN IN THE '80S:
Ajay Naidu Alannah Ong Amy Hill
April Hong Art Chudabala Bai Ling
Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa Chi Muoi Lo Chris Tashima
Collin Chou Danny Kamekona Dante Basco
David Chung Dennis Dun Dustin Nguyen
Elizabeth Sung Emily Kuroda Eriko Tamura
Galen Yuen Gedde Watanabe Jacqueline Kim
Jason Scott Lee Jeanne Sakata Jeff Imada
Jennifer Paz Jim Lau Jonathan Ke Quan
Karen Tsen Lee Kelly Hu Kelvin Han Yee
Lane Nishikawa Lauren Tom Les J.N. Mau
Long Nguyen Lori Tan Chinn Ming-Na
Paul J.Q. Lee Philip Moon Russell Wong
Russell Yuen Sakina Jaffrey Sandra Oh
Shuko Akune Stan Egi Stephen Chang
Tamlyn Tomita Traci Toguchi Veena Sood
Vivian Wu Youki Kudoh
Not pictured: Akira Takayama, April Tran, Clint Jung, Diane Cheng, Ed Hong-Louie, Emily Woo Yamasaki, Glenn Kubota, Henry Yuk, Ho Lo, Jadin Wong, Jennie Yee, Kay Tong Lim, Kerry Yo Nakagawa, Marc Hayashi, Mohan Gokhale, Paul J.Q. Lee, Ronald Yamamoto, Saachiko Magwili, Shinko Isobe, Steven Chen, Steve Park, Vien Hong and Wai Ching Ho
APA CINEMA & ASIAN HOLLYWOOD IN THE '80S:
The Fall of the I-Hotel (1983), Fools Dance (1983)
Jazz Is My Native Language - A Portrait of Toshiko Akiyoshi (1983), Dollar a Day, Ten Cents a Dance (1984)
Dim Sum (1985), The New Puritans - The Sikhs of Yuba City (1985), Unfinished Business (1985)
The Year of the Ox (1985), Snipers in Trees (1985), Yuki Shimoda - Asian American Actor (1985)
All Orientals Look the Same (1986), Manilatown Lives! (1986), A Great Wall (1986)
China Girl (1987), Living on Tokyo Time (1987), New Year (1987),
Who Killed Vincent Chin? (1987), Blue Collar and Buddha (1988),
The Color of Honor (1988), Carved in Silence (1988)
Dim Sum - Take-Out (1988), East of Occidental - The History of Seattle’s Chinatown (1988),
Family Gathering (1988), In No One's Shadow - Filipinos in America (1988), Family Gathering (1988)
Island of Secret Memories (1988), Lotus (1988),
Slaying the Dragon (1988), China Diary (1989)