About the Film

A TALE OF THREE CHINATOWNS (CURRENTLY IN PRODUCTION) 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.

Trailer
Filmmakers
Penny Lee
Penny Lee
Executive Producer/ Director/ Editor
Penny Lee is a documentary producer, director and film / video editor. Through more than 25 years of creating content, she has worked on documentaries, films, reality television, promotional infomercials, and educational videos. Lee produced, directed and edited the award-winning documentary “Through Chinatown’s Eyes: April 1968”. She has also produced, directed and edited a collection of short stories about Chinese American Veterans. Her editing works include a feature narrative film “A Year and Change” (by Director Stephen Suettinger) and the independent feature documentary “World At War” (by Director Robert Nixon). Lee’s clients include Discovery Channel, TLC, National Geographic Television, Travel Channel, HGTV and Cooking Channel.  In addition to her network shows, her passion for storytelling continues to drive her to create content highlighting the immigrant experience in the United States, with a primary focus on the Chinese-American voice.
Lisa Mao
Executive Producer/ Director/ Writer
Lisa Mao is a documentary producer, writer and director. Her credits include the award-winning documentary “Through Chinatown’s Eyes: April 1968”, Travel Channel’s “Man Vs. Food Nation,” and “Ultimate Factories” on National Geographic Channel. In addition to her Executive Producer role at the Travel Channel and programming role at Discovery Channel International, Mao has headed program development for various production companies. She is responsible for the launch of over 500 hours of programming on channels including National Geographic Channel, HGTV, History Channel, Discovery Channel, TLC, Animal Planet, Travel Channel, PBS, Smithsonian Channel, and Reelz. Throughout her work, Mao is committed to helping people share their stories to reveal the complex and unique fabric of the human condition. She resides in Washington, DC with her husband Franz.
Stephen Cocklin
Stephen Cocklin
Director of Photography
Stephen Cocklin is an Emmy Award-winning Director of Photography. As an Italy-based freelance DP for ABC, CBS, CNN, and NBC, Steve has covered major news events in Europe, the Middle East and Africa. In addition to covering the assassination attempt on Pope John Paul II, Steve also filmed the crash of PAN AM Flight 103 in Lockerbie, Scotland; the Racing of the Bulls in Pamplona, Spain; and the hijack of TWA flight 847 in Beirut for which he was nominated for an Emmy. Steve served as a Pentagon Pool Photographer covering Desert Storm and has worked on documentaries for Discovery Channel, A&E, History Channel, National Geographic, and PBS’s Frontline. Steve won the National Emmy® Award for Outstanding Individual Achievement in Cinematography for the National Geographic documentary “Afghanistan Revealed”.
Anne Cocklin
Anne Cocklin
Production Manager / Audio Technician
Anne Cocklin is a production manager and audio technician. She interfaces with all members of the production team to make sure production runs smoothly from start to finish. As the business manager of Cocklins Digital, the company has been awarded Cine Golden Eagle Awards, Aegis, Telly and Communicator awards for documentary and corporate work.
Andrew Leong
Advisor
Andrew Leong is an Associate Professor in the Philosophy Department in the College of Liberal Arts at UMass-Boston. He teaches legal studies, Latino and Asian American Studies. Joining UMB in 1990, his specialty is in law, social justice, and equality pertaining to disenfranchised communities, with a focus on Asian Americans. He was supervising attorney of the Asian Outreach Unit of Greater Boston Legal Services at Harvard Law School’s Hale and Dorr Legal Services Center from 1986 to 1990. From 1987 to 1993, he was clinical director of the Chinatown Clinical Program at Boston College Law School. Professor Leong has written about welfare and immigration reform, hate crimes, environmental justice, and community lawyering. Since 2017, he is frequently in the community conducting “Know Your Rights” presentations to immigrant communities across Greater Boston. He holds a JD from Boston College Law School.
Past Work
Documentary
THROUGH CHINATOWN’S EYES: APRIL 1968
Production
Tiger Sister's Productions

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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