Forbidden City, U.S.A.

Genre: Documentary
Ethnicity: Chinese American
Themes: Culture (Art/Performance), Identity/Representation
Date: 1989
Running Time: 56 min.
Director/Producer: Arthur Dong
DeepFocus Productions
Purchase for educational/institution use: (with study guide) DVD, $295
In this film, director Arthur Dong takes a glimpse into the lives of the performers of the Forbidden City, an all-Chinese nightclub in San Francisco in the 1930’s and 40’s.  The film blends song and dance with more serious themes of racism and identity to showcase a group of performers willing to challenge cultural stereotypes.  Dong’s compilation of original video footage with interviews with the aging performers offers viewers the chance to meet the "Chinese Fred Astaire" and the "Chinese Sophie Tucker," pioneering Chinese-American entertainers.

See also:

Yayoi Lena Winfrey "Documentary Lets Them Strut Their Stuff" Northwest Asian Weekly, November 16 2002.

Supplementary Material
Arthur Dong Biography

A teacher’s guide is available from the Center for Asian American Media (formerly NAATA).  To request a copy, contact

Asian American Filmography ExEAS