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EALL 3446: Asian American Film
Spring, 2014

Goals / Texts / Requirements and Grading / Academic Misconduct /
Disability Services / Schedule / Links / Filmography / OSU Secured Media Library

Room: Mendenhall 131
Time: T/Th 11:10-12:30
Instructor: Kirk A. Denton / Hagerty Hall 375 / 292-5548 (Office)
course webpage:
Office hours: Tues 2-4 (or by appt.)



This course seeks both to use film as a medium through which to get at issues relevant to the Asian American experience as well as to treat it as an art form in its own right, one that has had a difficult and dialogic relationship with mainstream Hollywood film. The course begins with a brief historical overview of the Asian American experience and introduces issues of Asian American identity. We then spend a week looking at "representations" of Asians in mainstream Hollywood film that are crucial to understanding the emergence of a self-conscious Asian American cinema in the 1960s and 1970s. That cinema began with the documentary form, and the documentary continues to be central to it, so the several weeks look at three different kinds of documentaries: family histories, social histories, and political documentaries. Reacting against mainstream representations, these films make Asians Americans subjects of history and not passive objects of it; they draw attention to historical, social, or political issues absent in the mainstream media. We next turn our attention to feature-length fictional films, pursuing through them issues of identity, generational conflict, and history, all of which are key to the Asian American experience. These films are narrated in a fairly mainstream Hollywood style, which raises the important question of whether Asian American film can or should be "oppositional." Finally, we look at some experimental filmmakers who have rejected that style altogether as too intertwined with racist values. Films viewed in the class treat the experience of Chinese, Koreans, Indians, and Japanese in America, although the emphasis is on Chinese and Japanese Americans (something necessitated by the availability of films).

The course will be conducted primarily in lecture/discussion format. Some, shorter "Primary" films will be viewed in class, but other longer films the student will view on his/her own. Films . A course listserv will keep students posted on film viewings and allow them to express themselves in written form.

Texts (available at SBX):

Takaki, Ron. 1998. Strangers from a Different Shore: A History of Asian Americans. Boston: Back Bay Books.

Xing, Jun. 1998. Asian America Through the Lens History, Representation and Identity. Alta Mira Press.

Other Asian American Film Readings

Ang, Ien. "To Be or Not to Be Chinese: Diaspora, Culture and Postmodern Ethnicity." Southeast Asian Journal of Social Sciences 21, no. 1 (1993).

Bai, Ye. "Remarkable: The Image of Chinese Americans in Current Film and Television." Chinese Studies in History 41, no. 3 (Spring 2008): 67-75.

Chan, Anthony B. "'Yellowface': The Racial Branding Of The Chinese In American Theatre And Media." Asian Profile 29, 2 (2001): 159-177. 

Chan, Jachinson. Chinese American Masculinities From Fu Manchu to Bruce Lee. NY: Routledge, 2001.

Chen, Shehong. Being Chinese, Becoming Chinese American. Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 2006.

Chan, Suheng. Asian Americans: An Interpretive History. Boston: Twayne, 1991.

Chang, Victoria M., ed. Asian American Poetry: The Next Generation. Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 2004.

Cheng, Annie Anin. The Melancholy of Race: Psychoanalysis, Assimiliation, and Hidden Grief. Oxford UP, 2001.

Chow, Rey. "The Provocation of Dim Sum; or, Making Diaspora Visible on Film." Journal of Modern Literature in Chinese 9, 2 (July 2009): 208-17. [on Wayne Wang's film Dim Sum]

"Christine Choy." In Scott MacDonald, ed., A Critical Cinema 3: Interviews with Independent Filmmakers. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1998, 196-217.

Feng, Peter X. "In Search of Asian American Film." Cineaste 21, no. 1-2 (1995).

-----. "Redefining Asian American Masculinity: Steven Okasaki's 'American Sons.'" Cineaste 22, no. 3 (1996).

-----. "Being Chinese American, Becoming Asian American: Chan is Missing." Cinema Journal, 354 (Summer 1996).

-----. Identities in Motion: Asian American Film and Video. Durham: Duke UP, 2002.

-----. ed. Screening Asian Americans. New Brunswick: Rutgers University Press, 2002.

Garcia, Roger, ed. Out of the Shadows: Asians in American Cinema. Locarno: Festival Intenazionale del Film di Locarno, 2001.

Gee, Bill. Asian American Media Reference Guide. 2nd Ed. NY: Asian CineVision, 1990.

Hamamoto, Darrell. Monitored Peril: Asian Americans and the Politics of TV Representation. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1994.

Hillenbrand, Margaret. "Of Myths and Men: Better Luck Tomorrow and the Mainstreaming of Asian America Cinema.”Cinema Journal 47, 4 (2008): 50-75. [about Justin Lin’s Better Luck Tomorrow]

Ito, Robert B. "'A Certain Slant': A Brief History of Hollywood Yellowface." Bright Lights Film Journal

Kashiwabara, Amy. "Vanishing Son: The Appearance, Disappearance, and Assimilation of the Asian-American Man in American Mainstream Media."

Lee, Robert G. Orientals: Asian Americans in Popular Culture. Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 1999.

Leibfried, Philip. "Anna May Wong: First Asian American Star."

Leong, Russell, ed. Moving the Image: Independent Asian Pacific American Media Arts . Los Angeles UCLA Asian American Studies Center 1991.

Liu, Sandra, and Darrel Hamamoto, eds. Countervisions: Asian American Film Criticism. Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 2000.

Marchetti, Gina. Romance and the Yellow Peril: Race, Sex, and Discursive Hollywood Strategies in Hollywood Fiction. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1993.

Mimura, Glen. Ghostlife of Third Cinema: Asian American Film and Video. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2009.

Moon, Krystyn R. Yellowface: Creating the Chinese in American Popular Music and Performance, 1850s-1920s. New Brunswick, N.J. : Rutgers University Press, 2005.

Ono, Kent and Vincent N. Pham. Asian Americans and the Media. Cambridge, UK: Polity Press, 2009.

Pang, Amy. "Janice Tanaka Finds the Present buy Tracing Her Father's Past: Who's Going to Pay for These Donuts, Anyway?" AsianWeek 14.43 (June 18, 1993): 32.

Patterson, Richard. "Chan Is Missing, or How to Make a Successful Feature for $22,315.92." American Cinematographer (Feb. 1983): 32-39.

Shimuzu, Celine P. The Hypersexuality of Race: Performing Asian/American Women on Screen and Scene. Durham: Duke UP, 2007.

Studlar, Gaylyn and Matthew Bernstein, eds. Visions of the East: Orientalism in Hollywood. New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press, 1997.

Wong, Eugene Franklin. On Visual Media Racism: Asians in the American Motion Pictures. New York: Arno Press, 1978.

Wu, Jean Yu-wen Shen and Ming Song, eds. Asian American Studies: A Reader. New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press, 2000.

Xing, Jun. "Imagery, Counter Memory, and Re-visioning of Asian American History: Rea Tajiri's History and Memory for Akiko and Takashige." In Annette White-Parks, et al., eds, A Gathering of Voices on the Asian American Experience. Fort Akinson, WI: Highlands Press, 1994, 93-100.

Yin, Xiao-huang. Chinese American Literature since the 1850s. Urbana: University of Illinois, 2000.

Zia, Helen. Asian American Dreams: The Emergence of an American People. NY: Farrer, Strauss, and Giroux, 2000.

Links to Asian American Studies sites


Amerasia Journal (Editor, Russell Leong, UCLA)
Angry Asian Man [blog about racism against Asians]
Asian American Association (OSU)
The Asian American Cybernauts Page (excellent site, including--on the Concerns page--excerpts from texts)
Asian American Resources (University of California, Santa Barbara)
Asian American Studies Center (UCLA)
Asian American Studies Program (OSU)
Asian Nation: The Landscape of Asian America [one of the best sites out there]
AsianWeek (The Voice of Asian America)
Center for Asian American Media
Center for the Study of the Chinese Southern Diaspora
Chinese American Museum of Chicago
Chinese Cultures Abroad (Vincent Kelly Pollard, University of Hawai'i-Manoa)
Goldsea [Asian American daily]
ImaginAsian Radio (SF-based radio station devoted to Asian American music and culture)
ImaginAsian TV (cable tv channel devoted to "promoting and serving the diverse cultures that comprise the Asian American community")
Isei Magazine: Korean American Voices at Harvard
Japanese American National Museum (LA)
Journal of Asian American Studies (John Hopkins University; Project Muse journal)
Model Minority (a guide to Asian American empowerment)
Nikkei Heritage (National Japanese American Historical Society)
Organization of Asian Americans
Peter X Feng's homepage [with good links to important resources for Asian American film and cultural studies]



Ancestors in the Americas (Center for Educational Telecommunications, Loni Ding; and a PBS documentary)
Asian American Film (the latest scoop about Asian American films and filmmakers; the purpose of is to build an engaged, involved, active, and excited audience for Asian American films)
Asian American Film Database (a listing of features, documentaries, and short films by Asian Americans)
Asian American Film Lab (The AAFilmlab is a collaborative of New York based Asian American filmmakers who meet weekly to hone their craft and to share resources.)
Asian American International Film Festival (NYC)
Asian American Media Arts [prepared by Prof. Peter Feng]
Asian Cinevision (ACV)
Asian Education Media Service (University of Illinois)
Center for Asian American Media [The Center for Asian American Media (CAAM) is a non-profit organization dedicated to presenting stories that convey the richness and diversity of Asian American experiences to the broadest audience possible. We do this by funding, producing, distributing and exhibiting works in film, television and digital media.]
Chicago Asian American Film Festival
Chicago Asian American Showcase 2001
Chicago Filipino American Film Festival [In the summer of 2003, members of the Filipino American Network (FAN) envisioned a unique event that would celebrate the work of Filipino and Filipino American filmmakers. Our mission was two-fold. Primarily, it was to support and highlight Filipino filmmakers in the U.S., Canada and the Philippines. But in keeping with FAN's vision of service to our local community, we also intended for the Festival to educate and enrich our Filipino American community.]
Faces of the Past, Voices of the Present [documentary on the internment of Japanese by OSU student Gena Duberstein; can be viewed online]
Media Resouces Center (UC, Berkeley)
NAATA (National Asian American Telecommunications Association)
Northwest Asian American Film Festival [Washington State's largest showcase for Asian American films and videos.]
Patty Chang [homepage of the Korean American performance and video installation artist]
San Francisco International Asian American Film Festival
Visual Communication (Southern California Asian American Studies Central, Inc.)


Asian American Theater Company (San Francisco; founded in 1973)
Ma-Yi Theatre Company
National Asian American Theater Company
National Asian American Theater Festival (inaugural year 2007)
Pan Asian Repertory Theater (NY-based theater company that specializes in performing Asian American plays)


Angel Island Immigration Station Poety
Asian American Literature: History, Classroom Use, Bibliography and WWW Resources
Asian American Writers' Workshop
Kit Yan Poet [Kit Yan tell stories through slam poetry from the lens of a queer and transgender Asian American from Hawaii who travels all over the world on tour. Through touching love poems, coming out stories, and comedic tales of his childhood.]


Students are expected to view all films (those shown in class and those in the OSU Secured Media Library) and keep up with weekly readings. Students will be evaluated on their class participation (15%), four reaction papers (40%), and a final film project (45%). Oral participation in class and participation through a course listserv count as "participation." The reaction papers ask you, in 2-3 pages, to express your thoughts on particular films, two documentaries and one feature film.

Four "reaction" papers:

Reaction papers should be around 2-3 pages long. In preparing your papers, you should NOT consult secondary readings. The point of these assignments is for you to actively engage with the film. You may begin with a "gut" reaction (i.e., how did the film make you feel), but you should also try to intellectualize your feelings (i.e., why does the film make me feel this way). A reaction paper should NOT be a summary of the plot. We want you to think about more subtle levels of meaning. In addition to the film's themes and content, you should also take into consideration issues of film technique, narrative style, and cultural codes.

(1) For the first reaction paper, students will write on any ONE of the following documentaries: Yellow Tale Blues OR Who's Going to Pay for these Donuts? (due Wednesday of Week 4)

(2) Who Killed Vincent Chin (due Thursday of Week 6)

(3) Chan Is Missing (due Wednesday of Week 7)

(4) Picture Bride (due Wednesday of Week 10 ).

Final project (film production):

Students required to produce a own film for their final projects. Video/digital-video productions can be either documentary or fictional in form, but they must, of course, have some aspect of Asian American experience as their central theme and content. During the final week of class, we will have a mini film festival, in which student films are shown to the class. Equipment for making films can be borrowed from Classrooom Services (25 Central Classrooms). Another source of equipment and multimedia services is the Digital Union (Room 370, Sciences and Engineering Library). In the past, students for this course have made films using only their cellphones and iMovie, so you do not necessarily need sophisticated cameras or software.

In making your film, please be aware of the following:

-making a film requires lots of planning ahead; doing so will save you time in the filming and production stages

-the voice of the cinematographer (the one holding the camera and doing the filmming) is right next to the camera mike; unless this is part of your design, the cinematographer's voice should not be heard; to make for a balanced sound, it is best to use a microphone with an extensiion that can be moved close to your "actors"; one can balance sound in the editing stage as well

-be sure to test out your final product on the equipment in our classroom; supported formats include DVD, Quicktime, WMV, Realplayer

-experiment with different film techniques and try to make a film that has more than just a still camera placed in front of interviewees; learn from the films we watched

The film should be at least 10 mins long.

Grades adhere to the following scale:

A = 90 and above
B = 80-90
C = 70-80
D = 60-70
F = 60 and below

Academic Misconduct

Academic misconduct is defined as any activity which tends to compromise the academic integrity of the institution, or subvert the educational process. Examples of academic misconduct include, but are not limited to: (a) violation of course rules as contained in the course syllabus or other information provided the student; violation of program regulations as established by departmental committees; (b) providing or receiving information during quizzes and examinations such as course examinations and general examinations; or providing or using unauthorized assistance in the laboratory, at the computer terminal, or on field work; (c) submitting plagiarized work for an academic requirement. Plagiarism is the representation of another's works or ideas as one's own; it includes the unacknowledged word for word use and/or paraphrasing of another person's work, and/or the inappropriate unacknowledged use of another person's ideas; (d) falsification, fabrication, or dishonesty in reporting research results; (e) serving as, or enlisting the assistance of, a "ringer" or substitute for a student in the taking of examinations; (f) alteration of grades or marks by the student in an effort to change the earned grade or credit; and (g) alteration of University forms used to drop or add courses to a program, or unauthorized use of those forms.

Disability Services

Students with disabilities that have been certified by the Office for Disability Services will be appropriately accommodated, and should inform the instructor as soon as possible of their needs. The Office for Disability Services is located at 150 Pomerene Hall, 1760 Neil Ave; TEL: 292-3307; TDD: 292-0901.


WEEK ONE: Introduction

Tuesday/Thursday: Sally's Beauty Spot/ Historical background/Film History (ppt presentation-Intro)

Readings: Takaki 1998: 3-78.

WEEK TWO: Film Language

Tuesday/Thursday: Film Language (ppt presentation-film language)

Yale Film Studies Film Analysis Website; this youtube video might also be helpful

WEEK THREE: Hollywood Representations of Asians

Tuesday: Viewings: Slaying the Dragon (60 min)

Thursday: clips from several Hollywood films; lecture and discussion (ppt presentation-representations)

Readings: Jun Xing 1998: 53-86.

WEEK FOUR: Identity, Personal Diary, and Family Portraits (FIRST REACTION PAPER DUE ON THURSDAY OF THIS WEEK)

Tuesday: Viewings: Yellow Tale Blues (30min), dir. by Christine Choy and Renee Tajima; Who's Going to Pay for these Donuts? (58min), dir. by Janice Tanaka.

Thursday: Lecture and Discussion (ppt presentation-documentaries)

Readings: Xing 1998: 87-124.

WEEK FIVE: Social History

Tuesday 2/4: Viewings: History and Memory (31min), Rea Tajiri; Sa-I-gu: From Korean Women's Perspective (31mins), dir. by Dai Sil Kim-Gibson.

Wednesday 2/6: Lecture and Discussion

Readings: Xing 1998: 87-124; Takaki 1998: 357-405.


Tuesday (2/11): Viewings: Who Killed Vincent Chin (83min), dir. by Rene Tajima-Pena and Christine Choy.

Thursday (2/13): Lecture and Discussion

Readings: Xing 1998: 87-124; Athea Yip, Remembering Vincent Chin; Vincent Who?


Tuesday (2/18): Viewings: Chan Is Missing (80min), dir. by Wayne Wang. [Interview with Wayne Wang] [available in the OSU Online Media Library]

Thursday (2/10: Lecture and Discussion

Readings: Takaki 1998: 230-269

WEEK EIGHT: Generations

Tuesday (2/25): Viewings: The Princess of Nebraska (77min), dir. by Wayne Wang and Saving Face (91min), dir. Alice Wu

Thursday (2/27): Lecture and Discussion

Readings: Xing 1998: 125-156

WEEK NINE: Workshop on Filming Techniques

Tuesday (3/4): Filming techniques workshop with Matt Swift

Thursday (3/6): continued (if needed)



Tuesday (3/18): Viewings: The Picture Bride (95min), dir. by Kayo Hatta.

Thursday (3/20): Lecture and Discussion

Readings: Takaki 1998: 132-176

WEEK ELEVEN: Workshops on Film Editing

Tuesday (3/25): Students A-N; Jennings Hall 50

Thursday (3/27): Students N-Y; Jennings Hall 50

WEEK TWELVE: Family Drama

Tuesday (4/1): Viewings: Mississippi Masala (118min), dir. by Mira Nair [Mira Nair bio; Interview with Mira Nair].

Thursday (4/3): Lecture and Discussion

Readings: Takaki 1998: 294-314


Tuesday (4/8: Viewings: Bontoc Eulogy (dir. Marlon Fuentes and Bridget Yearen)

Thursday (4/10): Lecture and Discussion

Readings: Xing 1998: 157-174

WEEK FOURTEEN: Film Festival