Chinatown Film Culture

The Appearance of Cinema in San Francisco's Chinese Neighborhood


*Chinatown Film Culture *provides the first comprehensive account of the emergence of film and moviegoing in the transpacific hub of San Francisco in the early twentieth century. Working with materials previously left in the margins of grand narratives of history, Kim K. Fahlstedt uncovers the complexity of a local entertainment culture that offered spaces where marginalized Chinese Americans experienced and participated in local iterations of modernity. At the same time, this space also fostered a powerful Orientalist aesthetic that would eventually be exported to Hollywood by San Francisco showmen such as Sid Grauman. Instead of primarily focusing on the screen-spectator relationship, Fahlstedt suggests that immigrant audiences' role in the proliferation of cinema as public entertainment in the United States saturated the whole moviegoing experience, from outside on the street to inside the movie theater. By highlighting San Francisco and Chinatown as featured participants rather than bit players, Chinatown Film Culture provides an historical account from the margins, alternative to the more dominant narratives of U.S. film history.

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    Book (peer reviewed)
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Khavar Fahlstedt, K. (2020). Chinatown Film Culture: The Appearance of Cinema in San Francisco's Chinese Neighborhood. New Brunswick, New Jersey: Rutgers University Press.