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Film Screening and Discussion: The Chinese Exclusion Act

Chinese exclusion act

Editor’s Note: This film screening has been postponed to the fall semester.

A special screening of The Chinese Exclusion Act, a 45-minute documentary made by award-winning filmmakers Ric Burns and Li-Shin Yu of Steeplechase Films, will be shown at the Charles B. Wang Center Theatre on Tuesday, May 15, beginning at 5:30 p.m.

The film will be followed by a question and answer session led by Professor Peggy Spitzer Christoff, Senior Lecturer in Chinese Studies and Director of Undergraduate Programs for the Stony Brook University Department of Asian and Asian American Studies. The event is co-sponsored by the China Center, the Charles B. Wang Center and the Office of the Chief Diversity Officer.

The Chinese Exclusion Act sheds a light on the important connections between the Chinese Exclusion Act and the history of American civil liberties, immigration, and culture. By examining the socio-economic and geo-political forces that led to the Act, the film will uncover its unmistakable and wide-ranging consequences on national attitudes towards race, culture, politics, and society.

According to the Center for Asian American Media, one of the film’s co-producers, the film “documents in fascinating detail the events leading to, causes of, consequences, and continuing impact of the only federal legislation in United States history ever to single out and name a specific race and nationality for exclusion from immigration and citizenship.”

The film includes powerful on-camera testimony from historians Erika Lee (University of Minnesota), Mary Ting Yi Lui (Yale University), Mae Ngai (Columbia University), Jean Pfaelzer (University of Delaware), Kevin Starr (USC-Dornsife), Jack (John Kuo Wei) Tchen (Founding Director, A/P/A Institute at NYU), Ling-Chi Wang (UC Berkeley), K. Scott Wong (Williams College), Renqiu Yu (SUNY-Purchase), along with Phillip Choy (architect, historian and archivist), Michael C. Lin (Chairman, 1882 Project), David Lei (cultural advocate), and Martin Gold (attorney and author).

“This couldn’t come at a more important time in our country… because it tells a story, it tells our story,” said Ngai about the documentary. “It shows what was done to our people, but it is also relevant to our present moment, and what is going on today, with anti-immigration laws and prejudices and what’s going on with the Muslim ban. They all have their roots, legally and politically in Chinese exclusion.”

The evening will begin with refreshments at 5:30 p.m., followed by the screening at 6:05 p.m. The Q&A session with Professor Christoff will follow.

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