HomeChinese AmericanNew film "Chinatown" reveals the effects of gentrification in Houston

New film “Chinatown” reveals the effects of gentrification in Houston

A new film called Chinatown by Quoc Tan Ly Huynh retells a true story from Huynh’s hometown, Alief, and a 2018 illegal gambling sting that shook Houston’s Chinatown and Little Saigon communities, Houston Matters reports. 

The focus of the film is inspired by real-events where the Houston Police Department executed multiple raids in broad daylight that led to over 40 arrests in Chinatown areas, according to ABC13

Three of the arrests were police officers, Larry Nguyen, Huy Ly, and Thomas Lam, who allegedly had connections with the bosses of these dens; law enforcement seized over $2.4 million cash in the two-year operation.  

Inspired by the events, Huynh made Chinatown, which follows the story of Tommy, a police officer who faces a constant limbo of “good cop, bad cop” but, in a twist of hilarious, action-packed events, redeems himself when his home becomes a target for gentrification.

Thanks to a $10,000 grant by Houston’s Mayor Office of Cultural Affairs, Huynh brought the story to life and hopes that his film will showcase Asian Americans in a new light. 

“I never forgot this story. It was so ridiculous and so uncharacteristic of Asian-American stereotypes. We’re thought of as society’s least problematic demographic. We work, go to school, get good jobs, and stay out of everyone’s way,” Huynh said in an interview with the International Management District. “I don’t believe Asian Americans have dug very deep into our flawed nature in our shows and movies. ‘Chinatown’ is my attempt at going there.” 

Paying homage to his hometown in this new film also meant touching on issues the Alief community is deeply impacted by, especially gentrification. Out of all the cities in Texas, Houston’s neighborhoods are gentrifying the quickest, an analysis from the Federal Reserve Bank in Dallas found. 

“We have this problem in Houston where all the development just spreads further and further out from the core of the city and what we’re left with are pretty dilapidated buildings and streets,” Hyunh said in an audio story for Houston Matters. “One of the plot points in my movie is ‘What would happen if the grocery store that the community revolves around is chosen as a target for a Whole Foods.” 

Through this project, Hyunh says he got to connect with Asian filmmakers in Houston and stressed the importance of more Asian-led works in the film industry, especially since the blockbusting success of Daniel Kwan’s Everything Everywhere All At Once.  

“The Asian-American voice in filmmaking still feels like it’s finding itself and proving its value,” Hyunh told International Management District. “There’s a way to go for this demographic to become a staple in film and television even though we do so much with limited opportunities.” 

Chinatown will be screened at multiple festival circuits around the Houston area in 2023.

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  1. Quoc Tan Ly Huynh could have made a film about historic Chinatowns in San Francisco or New York, etc., and help spread the truth about the century plus history of discrimination, suppression, oppression, hard work, perserverance, grace, goodness, and resilience of the Chinese people. Quoc could have highlighted the fight the Chinese had to engage in to be represented and heard. Quoc could have shown the sufferings, demonizing, and dehumanizing of the Chinese, yet they persevered. Quoc could have shown so much struggles, humanity, and survivals of the Chinese forced into their centuries old ghettos called Chinatown. Where’s the telling of the destructions of entire Chinese communities in America, in Los Angeles, Denver, etc? Where’s the telling of the lynchings of the Chinese in America? Where’s the telling of the erasures of the Chinese, forever foreigners, in the fabric of America? Instead, Quoc chooses to take a sliver of the seedy side of humanity and denigrade the Chinese. Why doesn’t Quoc make a film about illegal gambling in other communities? Where’s the documentary on illegal drugs in other communities? Where’s the film about police corruption in any major US city? Why did Quoc choose to shame the Chinese community and name his project “Chinatown?” Why isn’t there a positive portrayal of Chinatown? Are there no good stories about the Chinese in this time of extreme anti-Asian hate in America that Quoc has to heighten the negative views about Asians? Are there no good deeds that the Chinese did in all of Chinatown’s history? Quoc Tan Ly Huynh, you are the Uncle Tom of the Asian community.

    • I don’t think he has any intention of disrespecting his own community. I also don’t think he is focusing on Chinese community, but more towards the Vietnamese side of “Chinatown” since Little Saigon was also mentioned. He wants to tell a story as he knows it and lived it from what I understand. I’m sure Asian communities along with other ethnic groups have and still experience hardship and there is always going to be something that we as people feel needs to be addressed. I am mixed Mexican and Japanese, but grew up in predominantly black neighborhood not too far from Alief. I have seen a lot and been through a lot, and as matter of fact I currently live in Little Saigon and I constantly see the community struggle with these issues. What I am trying to say is don’t discriminate against him for not telling a story he may not be too familiar with, but give him credit for opening the doors to an area America has neglected for too long.


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