San Francisco is no doubt a cinematic city and many well known films and television series have been filmed here, the recent racist attacks suffered by Asian Americans have shown that unfortunately there are divisions and sometimes those divisions have to do with the fear of the unknown, of what is different to the mainstream. 

In the world of art, artists, or filmmakers there is a sense of community. Regardless of where you come from or what language you speak, there is always something that brings us together; art, films, books. It is rare to meet a narrow minded artist, or someone prejudiced towards others, so perhaps it is time we explore more art to enrich our lives and open our minds. 

In the case of cinema, the contribution of Asian American filmmakers to American cinema is unmeasurable, so if all you have seen is “Crazy Rich Asians”, get ready now for charm and understated movies which have little in common with Hollywood extravaganzas and reflect neither crazy nor rich Asians.

Films which back in the 90’s and 80’s found success primarily in the mainstream art house circuit and that reflected onscreen the lives of Asian American on their own terms. 

San Francisco cinema lovers of the younger generations, will love these art house films, all shot in San Francisco and all about the wonderful Chinese community in the city.

Without further ado here are a few recommendations for your must watch list, all of them were directed by legendary indie director Wayne Wang, a pioneer of Asian-American cinema who lives in the Bay Area.

Chan is Missing, 1982

Director: Wayne Wang 

A very entertaining mystery film made for $20,000 back in 1982 and extremey rich in setting and character detail.

San Francisco cabdrivers Jo and his nephew Steve, are robbed of $4000 meant for a taxi license by Chan Hung, who takes the money and goes missing. They two taxi drivers go looking for him in Chinatown believing he really didn’t intended to steal the money. As they knock on doors and speak to people we are given a real feeling for the people of San Francisco’s Chinatown

Dim Sum: A Little Bit of Heart,1985

Director: Wayne Wang

I have to admit that ever since I saw this film , my dream is not a cruise trip around the Caribbean but something as simple as a San Francisco holiday where I visit China Town and eat the most delicious Dim Sum. The simple pleasures of life offer no doubt the greatest joy and this movie is that, joyful, understated and mouthwatering too 

The film is a very charming tale of one Chinese San Franciscan family living in Chinatown.It is seen through the eyes of a 30-something career woman (Laureen Chew) and her widowed mother (Kim Chew), who welcomes the new year thinking she is going to die. It is a comedy but it deals with complex human emotions and the conflict between family responsibility, and the desire to live one’s own life. 

The Joy Luck Club, 1993

Director: Wayne Wang

This Chinese-American film is the one that crossed over to a mainstream American audience as it resonates with everyone who has a family, so everyone will identify with it.Based on the 1989 best-selling novel by Amy Tan, the film gives us a wonderful insight into the lives of Chinese families caught between Chinese and Western values and struggling with high expectations, psychological issues and cultural differences.

In San Francisco, four middle-aged Chinese immigrant mothers with Americanized daughters and comfortable homes in the city, meet once a week to discuss family issues while playing “Mahjong”, theirs is the “Joy Luck Club” of the title. A joy to watch!