Articulate Emotion: Documentaries By Christine Choy – interum

  • Christine Choy where glasses looking straight ahead and seated in a movie theaer.

“You cannot structure film with logic. Film is emotion. Emotion is universal. When you are able to articulate emotion, it is so universal…How you grab this universal feeling with any subject, and you can share it with different people and nationalities, that is what I am trying to communicate with my films. Once you are able to catch emotion in a film, the logic comes through.” – Christine Choy.

Christine Choy, a maverick of Asian American independent filmmaking, has spent her career producing and directing social justice documentaries that probe the seams in the American fabric to explore complex histories of race, gender, class and economic forces. Born in China, Choy grew up in East Asian countries including post-war Korea. There, she spent time in movie theaters absorbing the American films screening to entertain U.S. troops stationed there and taking in hours of the soft power export. She trained as an architect acquiring skills that would later come in handy as she turned towards filmmaking. With the rise of social justice filmmaking in the wake of the Civil Rights Movement, Choy’s pivot came out a realization that there were few Asian filmmakers working in the white male dominated industry and without a role model she moved in to occupy that space herself. In New York she became part of the burgeoning alternative media scene and joined Newsreel (now known as Third World Newsreel), an independent progressive media organization run by anti-war and pro-Civil Rights radical activists that had facilities and a distribution arm. Since 1972, Choy has directed, co-directed and produced over 70 documentaries chronicling resistance movements, social activists, racial disparity and lived experiences of immigrants. Now a role model herself, Articulate Emotion offers but a brief foray into the documentary world of Christine Choy and includes several of her most revered works, including a recently restored version of the Oscar nominated film Who Killed Vincent Chin? The legacy of her documentary practice has inspired a new generation of filmmakers, including many who have studied with her at NYU and embraced her work and activist approach. This series celebrates her contribution to documentary filmmaking and coincides with the special presentation of The Exiles, starring Christine Choy!

A program curated by Gina Basso, in partnership with Roxie Theater.

A woman in sunglasses and a hat also wears an expression of determination.

Sundance Film Fest winner, THE EXILES, a profile of Christine Choy that also follows up on an unfinished documentary about three of the 1989 Tiananmen Square massacre protesters that she started with Renee Tajima-Peña, runs Friday, Dec. 9 – Thursday, Dec. 15!

There are a limited number of passes for the entire series, all Q&As, plus entry into THE EXILES: $44.00. Buy Now!

The Program

Saturday, December 10, 1:15 pm
Big Roxie
1984, 78 minutes, video. USA.
Christine Choy co-directed with Worth Long and Allan Siegel
source: Third World Newsreel

Preceded by Legal Smuggling with Christine Choy. Dirs: Lewie Kloster and Noah Kloster. 4 min. 2016. USA. Courtesy of the makers.

Choy and co-directors Long and Allen offer an intimate portrait of the lives of Chinese, African Americans and whites living in the Mississippi Delta. The residents live against the backdrop of the racist policies of the past and the histories of migration and labor linger in the present day. Exploring the region’s history of the Chinese community who were originally brought to the South to work on cotton plantations after the Civil War, the story of Mississippi Triangle is one of lineage, told through civil rights, religion, politics, and class in the South. Rare historical footage combined with interviews with Delta residents who were born and raised in the area reveal the lived experiences and shared memories of the American South. A Third World Newsreel production.


Sunday, December 11, 1:00 pm
Big Roxie

1988, 87 minutes, video. USA.
Christine Choy and Renee Tajima-Peña
source: Academy Film Archives

Preceded by Legal Smuggling with Christine Choy. Dirs: Lewie Kloster and Noah Kloster. 4 min. 2016. USA. Courtesy of the makers

Christine Choy IN PERSON
in discussion with Gina Basso immediately following the film!

In 1982 Vincent Chin, a Chinese-American automotive engineer was brutally murdered by two white autoworkers in Detroit who were never prosecuted. Although the title poses the question as to the murderers identities, it was open knowledge. Without the trappings of a mystery to solve, the filmmakers document the aftermath through interviews and archival footage to create a pointed analysis and indictment of the failings of the American legal system, and the systematic racism against Asian Americans that allowed his murderer to go free. The tragic events coincides with a turbulent socioeconomic time in America where the forces of labor, race and class collide and justice goes unserved. Nominated for an Oscar for Best Documentary Feature in 1989, Who Killed Vincent Chin? remains a landmark of documentary filmmaking and Asian American cinema.


Sunday, December 11, 3:45 pm
Big Roxie


From Spikes to Spindles
1976, 46 minutes, video. USA.
Christine Choy and Renee Tajima-Pena
source: Third World Newsreel

New York’s Chinatown community is at the center of Choy’s examination of the Chinese American experience. Raw and gritty, Choy captures the energy, determination and resistance of the young and old who join forces in protest against twin forces of policy brutally and real estate developers. An uncanny and prescient vision into contemporary unrest, the streets, community centers and garment warehouses are ground zero for labor organizing and anti-gentrification movements.

Home Apart: Korea
1991, 56 minutes, video. USA/Korea
Christine Choy and J.T. Takagi
source: Third World Newsreel

Preceded by Legal Smuggling with Christine Choy. Dirs: Lewie Kloster and Noah Kloster. 4 min. 2016. USA. Courtesy of the makers.

A poignant look at the dire effects of a country divided, the impact of family separation and fear of annihilation in post-war Korea. With the armistice in 1953 Korea was separated into North and South and millions were pulled apart from extended families. Playwright Henry Hwang sets the scene for a look at the personal, social and political aspects of a nation torn apart. Homes Apart was the first US project to get permission to film in both South & North Korea.



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