FORBIDDEN CITY, U.S.A.
Directed by Arthur Dong
It was the swinging 30s. The big bands of the 40s. It was San Francisco nightlife – Baghdad by the Bay. And the crowds were packing the nation’s premiere all-Chinese nightclub, Forbidden City.
Based on the real, historic San Francisco nightclub that gained an international reputation with its unique showcase of Chinese American performers in eye-popping all-American extravaganzas, Arthur Dong’s FORBIDDEN CITY, USA is an hour long documentary tribute to the Asian-American pioneers who attempted to break cultural barriers by pursuing their love of American song and dance.
Arthur Dong brings this little-known chapter of entertainment history center-stage in full spotlight. A perfect composition composed of elements of archival footage of original recordings, performances, and interviews of the performers themselves, FORBIDDEN CITY, USA provides a glimpse into the glamour and not-so-glamorous lives of these Asian American entertainment pioneers by sharing their real life stories. “The Chinese Sinatra”, “the Chinese Sophie Tucker”, and the “Chinese Sally Rand” are just some of the spirited personalities that strut their stuff and share triumphant and often sidesplitting tales of adventures in the cabarets of yesteryear.
FORBIDDEN CITY, USA originally made its debut at the 1989 Hawaii International Film Festival and was previous screened at AAIFF in 1990. With its historical value, significance, and prevalent themes, such as stereotypes, racism, and the passion to pursue a seemingly impossible dream, FORBIDDEN CITY, USA has won the hearts of critics and juries at the American Film & Video Festival, the USA Film Festival, the Chicago International Film Festival, LA Times, and NY Times to just to name a few.
We are honored and thrilled to present the digitally re-mastered FORBIDDEN CITY, USA at AAIFF’5 and remember those who made our first step as Asian Americans in the entertainment industry, including Arthur Dong himself who has constantly revealed his concern for the Asian-American community.
FORBIDDEN CITY, USA has been digitally remastered from original film elements by the UCLA Film & Television Archive, revealing beautiful and crisp details never before seen.
Co-presented by: Pan Asian Repertory Theatre
Co-sponsored by AARP.