HomeAsian AmericansWorld Premiere of Harry Chuck's Chinatown Rising to open CAAMFEST in...

World Premiere of Harry Chuck’s Chinatown Rising to open CAAMFEST in San Francisco

Chinatown Rising

By Louis Chan, AsAmNews National Correspondent

Anyone who has spent more than a few days in San Francisco Chinatown likely has heard the name Harry Chuck. Chuck is the former youth director and later executive director of Cameron House, a longtime non-profit which has served Chinatown youth for more than 140 years.

He and his son Josh are putting the finishing touches on their first film, Chinatown Rising, which will make its world premiere and open CAAMFEST 2019 in San Francisco next Thursday, May 9.

Many may not know that Chuck earned his masters degree in film studies 45 years ago at San Francisco State. The film is a promise he made to himself when he graduated.

“This was to be my 20 minute graduate thesis (M.A.).  At the time I was working F/T and was starting a family,” he told AsAmNews during a break in editing. “Linda Wang and I had also started the Chinatown Coalition for Better Housing and were working on gaining support for the Mei Lun Yuen housing development on Sacramento-Stockton Streets site, an effort which took 10 years to achieve (also documented in Chinatown Rising).  Given all these time-consuming matters, there just wasn’t enough time to complete the film to my satisfaction, but it impressed my graduate advisors and I promised to complete the film someday. ”

The documentary is a glimpse at the activist movement in Chinatown which Chuck himself has played an integral role. He stitches together the story using archival footage he himself shot and photographs from private collections. Together with his son, he scanned 13,000 photos and slides with people stepping up to offer their pictures.

“To be the first festival to bring Chinatown Rising to the big screen is a real honor,” said CAAMFEST Exhibition and Festival Director, Masashi Niwano to AsAmNews when asked about the risk of featuring a film that wasn’t finished. “It’s an outstanding film that celebrates the legacy of key community leaders and has the power to inspire new generations, to stand up for what they want San Francisco to be for future generations. As the cultural tapestry of San Francisco evolves, taking a moment to reflect on our shared histories and to celebrate all the changes we have accomplished is ever important.”

Chinatown Rising

The Chucks hope to see their film used in classrooms across the country. They plan to produce a study guide to go with the film that would target high school and undergraduate students. They see the film’s title, Chinatown Rising, as a reflection of the documentary’s spirit.

“It (the title) began to grow on us as we worked through the events of the Asian American Movement,” said Chuck. “We realized that Chinatown’s history was unique and those involved were taking stands which would result in Chinatown’s transformation.   Names continued to surface, but we kept going back to “Chinatown Rising” because we were witnessing a “resurrection moment”. 

Harry is 84, his son is 40. The film brings in perspectives of two generations of a Chinese American family. Papa Chuck called working with his son a dream.

” I wish every father and his adult child could experience,” working together, said Harry. ” I kept telling stories about my social activism and he kept shaping the events into a script for a contemporary audience.  Once, we realized the potential of the film’s historical value for generating interest in the classroom, we were totally committed.”



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