A TALE OF THREE CHINATOWNS is a feature-length documentary that explores the survival of urban ethnic neighborhoods. Specifically examining Chinatowns in three American cities, the film looks at the forces altering each community and the challenges that go with them.The film profiles Chinatowns in Washington, D.C., Chicago, and Boston and features the voices of residents, community activists, developers, government officials, and others who have a connection to this ubiquitous neighborhood. Through these perspectives, the film presents the present day pressing topic of urban development and gentrification through the eyes of those on the frontlines. Chicago’s Chinatown is a story of growth where the Asian-American population has increased and its borders have expanded. In contrast, Washington, D.C.’s Chinatown has dwindled to an estimated population of 300 residents of Chinese descent. The Chinatown neighborhood in Boston finds itself somewhere in between these two extremes as various groups fight for the land on which it sits.
A TALE OF THREE CHINATOWNS is timely as America’s cities are experiencing a sudden change in demographics due to larger social and economic trends. As reverse “exoduses” occur throughout the country with an increased number of people moving back into cities, ethnic enclaves and lower income residents who’ve long sought these communities for social services, employment, and affordable housing are faced with grave challenges.
These challenges include competition for space, residential displacement, increased living costs, non-community developers and overall, their survival. The rapid changes raise questions about broad socioeconomic accessibility to urban areas, responsible development, evolving neighborhoods and citizens’ rights to the city. It also raises questions about the notion of “community” and how it is defined. Through the voices of those involved, this film aims to bring a 360-view of changing populations and the diverse fabric of people and interests that are in constant flux and negotiation throughout the United States and its history.
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Penny Lee is the co-producer and editor of A Tale of Three Chinatowns. Her experience in broadcast and post-production, combined with her dedication and commitment to the craft, guarantees that every production is engaging and successfully brings forth each client’s vision. Her editing portfolio include documentaries, cable network TV series, independent films, training videos, commercials, sizzle reels, as well as promotional videos for government agencies, private corporations, trade associations, and non-profit organizations. Penny produced, directed and edited the award-winning short documentary “Through Chinatown’s Eyes: April 1968” and also a collection of short stories about Chinese American Veterans. Some of Penny’s cable network clients include Discovery Channel, National Geographic Television, and Travel Channel. Her network projects and her passion for storytelling continues to drive her to create and produce content highlighting the immigrant experience in the United States, with a primary focus on the Chinese-American voice. Penny lives in Silver Spring, MD with her husband Jack.
Lisa Mao is the director, writer and co-producer of A Tale of Three Chinatowns. With a career in non-fiction television as a development executive and producer, Lisa is responsible for the creation and launch of more than 500 hours of programming for channels including History Channel, National Geographic Channel, HGTV, Animal Planet, Investigation Discovery, and Travel Channel. Her credits include Travel Channel’s “Man Vs. Food Nation,” “Extreme Forensics” on ID and “Deadly Shootouts” on Reelz. In addition to her television work, she also wrote and produced the award-winning short documentary “Through Chinatown’s Eyes: April 1968.” Lisa is committed to helping people share their stories to reveal the complex fabric of the human condition. She resides in Washington, DC with her husband and son.
The civil disturbance and street violence following the assassination of civil rights leader Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr had a profound impact on the country as well as the nation's capital. It had no less of an impact on DC's Chinatown, a neighborhood of first and second generation Chinese Americans. A community navigating the racial tensions of the time, this is the story of how its residents experienced a pivotal moment in history.
The full documentary is available for viewing on Amazon Prime Video.
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