Directed by Emiko Omori

Vanishing Chinatown: The World of The May’s Photo Studio brings families together: in the past by splicing family portraits in spite of the Chinese Exclusion Act, and in the present by reconnecting May’s granddaughter with her family’s legacy. These stunning photographs show San Francisco Chinatown in the early to mid-20th century, a vanishing “old Chinatown” vibrant with culture; an immigrant community becoming Americanized.

The photographs were almost lost, but art student Wylie Wong rescued 700 photographs trashed in a dumpster. Corinne Chan Takayama, granddaughter of the photographers Leo and Isabella May Chan Lee didn’t know what had happened to the photographs, but forty years later found that Wylie had saved some of the photographs. We interweave Corinne and Wylie as Corinne tells personal stories sparked by the photographs and Wylie, along with other historians and Cantonese opera performers, explain the historical background and artistic value of the images.

The importance of family, preserving memories and dreams of earlier generations, identity, and a creative resistance to racist laws and societal constraints are the main themes in Vanishing Chinatown. During these Trumpian times of immigrant family separations, detention, and deportations, Vanishing is an urgent reminder of hardships Chinese immigrants endured during the 61 years of the Chinese Exclusion Act, and resonates with other immigrants today.

Director Biography: Emiko Omori is an American cinematographer and film director known for her documentary films. Her feature-length documentary Rabbit in the Moon won the Best Documentary Cinematography Award at the 1999 Sundance Film Festival and an Emmy Award after it was broadcast on PBS that same year. Omori has also been a CAAMFest Spotlight Honoree.

Co-presented by: Chinatown Community Development Center (CCDC)Cameron House


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From San Francisco’s Chinatown to China, these beautiful films explore lost histories and the power of memory. Program includes…