This past May, Yi Chen previewed her verite-style documentary to an audience at the Chinese Community Cultural Center at 616 H Street NW DC. Her film, the first of its kind, juxtaposes contemporary life in D.C.’s Chinatown with its diminished past and hopes for a better future.
“It’s been ten days, she said, “since our launch on Kickstarter and we’re very grateful for the pledges and support from the community. The confidence people have shown in the project strengthens our belief in the need to tell the story.”
Titled “CHINATOWN: A Documentary Film in Post-Production” on Kickstarter, the project has 78 backers and already reached 60% if its goal.
With Washington rich in ethnic stories (a recent study at Penn State University ranked the area fourth most diverse in the U.S.), those telling the stories of Chinese-Americans here face stiff competition for attention and support. That's frustrating for filmmakers such as Chen, who know their history here is a rich one. Chinatown is one of Washington’s oldest ethnic communities – the first documented Chinese resident of Washington, D.C. settled on Pennsylvania Avenue in 1851.
As one of the largest minority groups in Fairfax County, Asian-Americans in the region have some strength in numbers. But unlike the large and teeming Chinatown in San Francisco, the one here has shrunk to a population of only 400 or so immigrants. Despite its sharp focus and easy access to Metro, this reduction means D.C.'s Chinatown is no longer the most desirable place for banquets and meetings.
For residents at places like the Wah Luck House, who desire authentic, healthy and affordable Chinese foods, purchasing those goods means a weekly 45-minute drive to the Great Wall Supermarket in Falls Church.
Selected by "Our City Film Festival," CHINATOWN will be screened on March 10th at the Atlas Performing Arts Center.
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