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The Chinese Exclusion Act: The Official New York Premiere

Presented by the Asian/Pacific/American Institute at NYU with Steeplechase Films, Center for Asian American Media, David D. Ho, MD, New-York Historical Society, WNET, Museum of Chinese in America, and Asian American Bar Association of New York. Co-sponsored by Asian/Pacific/American Studies Program, NYU.

Join us for the official New York premiere screening of the The Chinese Exclusion Act with award-winning documentary filmmakers Ric Burns and Li-Shin Yu of Steeplechase Films. The screening will be hosted by Jack Tchen, founding director of the Asian/Pacific/American Institute at NYU, and followed by a discussion with the filmmakers and special guest Kavitha Rajagopalan, a Senior Fellow at the World Policy Institute and author of Muslims of Metropolis: The Stories of Three Immigrant Families in the West.


On May 6, 1882on the eve of the greatest wave of immigration in American historyPresident Chester A. Arthur signed into law a unique piece of federal legislation. Called the Chinese Exclusion Act, it singled out by name and race a single nationality for special treatment: making it illegal for Chinese laborers to enter America on pain of imprisonment and for Chinese nationals ever to become citizens of the United States. 

A deeply American storyabout immigration and national identity, civil rights, and human justice; about how we define who can be an American, and what being an American meansthe film examines the economic, cultural, social, legal, racial, and political dimensions of the law; the forces and events that gave rise to it; and the effect it has had, and continues to have, on American culture and identity. The evening program will also consider the connections between the Exclusion Act and the long fight for social justice, civil liberties, immigration, and who are to be included as “we the people.” Immediately evident will be the chilling parallels to today.

The film’s broadcast premiere will take place on May 29 as a special presentation of the acclaimed PBS series American Experience. Check your local listings.


Ric Burns (Director) has been producing, directing, and writing historical documentaries for public television for nearly thirty years, since collaborating on the PBS series The Civil War (1990), which he produced with his brother Ken and co-wrote with Geoffrey C. Ward. His body of work for national broadcast on PBS includes Coney Island (1991), The Donner Party (1992), The Way West (1995), New York: a documentary film (1999, 2001, 2003), Ansel Adams (2002),  Eugene O’Neill (2006), Andy Warhol (2006), Tecumseh’s Vision (2009), Into the Deep: America, Whaling and the World (2010), Death & the Civil War (2012), American Ballet Theatre (2015), Debt of Honor (2015), and The Pilgrims (2015). His films have received many awards, including seven Emmy Awards, three duPont-Columbia Awards, and two Peabody Awards, among others. Burns was educated at Columbia University and Cambridge University, and lives in New York City with his wife and two sons.

Li-Shin Yu (Director), a New York-based film editor, has collaborated with Director Ric Burns for the past twenty-three years and is co-directing The Chinese Exclusion Act. Yu and Burns are best known for their epic series NEW YORK: a documentary film, an eight-part production chronicling the city’s rise from a remote Dutch outpost to the cultural and economic center of the world, for which Yu received a Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Achievement in Editing. Yu began her career collaborating with other New York independent filmmakers including Jim Jarmusch, Spike Lee, Sara Driver, and Peter Wang and more recently with documentarians Christine Choy, Bill Moyers, Thomas Lennon, and Stanley Nelson amongst others.

Kavitha Rajagopalan is a senior fellow at the World Policy Institute and nonresident senior fellow at the Carnegie Council for Ethics in International Affairs, specializing in global migration and immigrant communities in cities. She is the author of Muslims of Metropolis: The Stories of Three Immigrant Families in the West (Rutgers University Press 2008), which was finalist for the Asian American Literary Award, and co-author of The Testing and Learning Revolution: The Future of Assessment in Education (Palgrave Macmillan 2015) with leading education scholar Edmund W. Gordon. She has appeared as an expert commentator on MSNBC and was most recently a regular opinion and commentary contributor for The New York Observer. Her writing has appeared in The Atlantic’s CityLab, Newsday, PBS Online, Next City, The Feminist Review, and various academic journals, edited volumes, and policy magazines.

Venue: NYU Skirball Center for the Performing Arts
566 LaGuardia Place
New York, NY 10012 United States
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Add to Calendar 05/22/2018 06:30 PM 05/22/2018 09:30 PM America/New_York The Chinese Exclusion Act: The Official New York Premiere More detail: https://apa.nyu.edu/event/the-chinese-exclusion-act-the-official-new-york-premiere-screening/ NYU Skirball Center for the Performing Arts, New York, NY, 10012