Film poster for "Chinatown" with painting of neighborhood.
Film poster for "Chinatown" with painting of neighborhood.
Three senior activists fight for housing rights in DC’s historic Chinatown


Regular price $559.00


BEST DOCUMENTARY SHORT - IndieCapitol Awards | Recommended - Educational Media Reviews Online "Intimate" - NPR

Asian American Studies • Urban Planning • Sociology • Ethnic Studies • Public Policy • Immigration • Gentrification

Date of Completion: 2016 | Run Time: 26 minutes​​ | Language: English & Chinese with English & Chinese subtitles | Captions: No | Director & Producer: Yi Chen

As Chinatowns across the country are experiencing gentrification, just over 300 Chinese American residents remain in Washington, D.C.’s historic Chinatown. Most of them are seniors living in the federally subsidized section 8 project Wah Luck House and have been pushing for the right to remain in the neighborhood as it undergoes development and rising property values since the early 1970s.

Through the stories of three senior activists, the documentary takes an intimate look at the past, present and future of a changing neighborhood from the perspective of its underrepresented low-income community. Just like when the 1960s Civil Rights Movement inspired many Chinese Americans into action, today’s D.C. Chinatown community has overcome the political and cultural isolation and reached out to nonprofit and legal organizations for education and representation in their on-going activism for equality and justice. The documentary sparks the important conversation of what the future will hold for Chinatowns across North America.

Educational Media Reviews Online | Brandon West, Social Sciences Librarian, State University of New York at Geneseo
“This documentary is ripe for pedagogical use in urban planning, sociology, and Chinese studies courses…many interesting concepts…could be expanded upon in the classroom through discussion, case study analysis, or research. The overall originality of the documentary’s subject matter makes it a worthy addition to library film collections."

Northwestern University | Danielle Beverley, Assistant Professor, Department of Communication
Chinatown can serve students making short documentaries, particularly ones about their own communities, as an example to discuss access, style, and story. And it also could be useful for Asian Studies curriculums, to consider other Chinatowns facing gentrification."

American UniversityProfessor Maggie Stogner, School of Communication
“The film is a unique story yet relevant to other ethnic neighborhoods in cities across the U.S. It is an important contribution to our understanding of immigration history in the United States."

Simon Fraser University, CanadaSophie Fung, Urban Studies
Chinatown would make an excellent addition to geography and urban studies departments seeking material to examine how an invisible population is being impacted by and fighting against urban processes. The film is also suitable for those studying the changes of Chinatowns across North America."

Washington Latin Public Charter School | Chrissy Stouder, World Languages Department Head
“I’ve found the film to be an excellent educational tool in the classroom to engage students in a meaningful discussion about immigration history and changes in the historic Chinatown neighborhood over the last decades. It engages my diverse student body and encourages critical thinking about important social issues and a part of American history that is often overlooked in mainstream secondary curriculum."

NPRRebecca Sheir
“The very first documentary film about D.C.’s Chinatown…takes an intimate look at the past, present and future of the gentrifying D.C. neighborhood, through the eyes of three Chinese immigrants. What makes a Chinatown authentic isn’t an archway or signs in Chinese. It’s the people who’ve called the neighborhood their home for years and hope to do so for many more to come.”

The Washington Post | Stephanie Merry
“Here are a few films that have us buzzing: Yi Chen’s documentary looks at the evolution of the Washington, D.C. neighborhood through the lens of three residents, who are trying to hang on to the last vestiges of Chinese culture on a strip where an increasing number of storefronts are chain restaurants and bars.”

Best Documentary ShortIndieCapitol Awards

Virginia Film Festival
Vancouver Asian Film Festival
DC Shorts Film Festival
Our City Film Festival
Film Festival at Little Washington
Heritage Film Festival
Utopia Film Festival
DC Ideas Fest
Decades of Docs in Our City Film Festival
Beijing International Film Festival
DC Public Library Our City Fest

Yi Chen is a documentary filmmaker based in Washington D.C. She is a Soros Equality Fellow and DC Arts and Humanities Fellow. Her debut feature documentary FIRST VOTE has screened at festivals including AFI DOCS, Hot Docs Doc Shop, CAAMFest, LA Asian Pacific Film Festival, Houston AAPI Film Festival, Nevertheless Film Festival and Hawaii International Film Festival. Her short film CHINATOWN won Best Documentary Short from IndieCapitol Awards.

Yi’s work has received funding from the Ford Foundation JustFilms, Open Society Foundations, Center for Asian American Media, ITVS, DC Commission on the Arts and Humanities, Kartemquin Films and Southern Documentary Fund. Her short films have screened at the Environmental Film Festival, SAG Foundation Shorts Showcase, Clermont Ferrand International Short Film Festival, DC Independent Film Festival, Virginia Film Festival, Vancouver Asian Film Festival, and Smithsonian Anacostia Community Museum. Her work has been featured on WHUT, NPR, Washington Post, NBC4, National Geographic, Voice of America, and WAMU 88.5.

Yi holds an MFA in Film and Media Arts from American University. She has taught documentary production and editing courses at George Mason University’s Film and Video Studies program, Fairfax Public Access, Docs In Progress, and Marymount University. She has also taught workshops at the Film and Video Association National Conference, OCA National Summit, National Asian Pacific American Bar Association Convention, East Coast Asian American Student Union National Conference, DC Historical Studies Conference, Edmonton Chinatown Conference, CAAM Filmmaker Summit (session on Documentary Story Development & Process), and National AAPI Leadership Summit (session on Story Power: How to Use Film to Engage the AAPI Electorate).