Artist Frank Wong’s exquisitely detailed dioramas of the Chinatown of his childhood serve as portals to the past in a rapidly changing San Francisco.
"A beautiful love letter to Chinatown... heartbreaking, tender, evocative."
Forever, Chinatown is a story of unknown, self-taught 81-year-old artist Frank Wong who has spent the past four decades recreating his fading memories by building romantic, extraordinarily detailed miniature models of the San Francisco Chinatown rooms of his youth.
This film takes the journey of one individual and maps it to a rapidly changing urban neighborhood from 1940s to present day. A meditation on memory, community, and preserving one’s own legacy, Frank‘s three-dimensional miniature dioramas become rare portals into a historic neighborhood and a window to the artist’s filtered and romanticized memories and emotional struggles. In his bargain with immortality, Frank announces plans to cremate his exquisite works with him upon his death in order to ‘live inside them forever’ in his afterlife.
"In more than 10 years of teaching documentary classes in continuing education programs, I can't recall filmmakers or a film generating so much energy and enthusiasm among my students."
"…the most enchanting and salutary documentary film I have ever viewed…explores the remarkable psychological and physical embodiment of 'sense of place’…”
"Masterfully directed...beautifully shot"
"Wong's craft is...fascinating...meticulous...bringing 1940s Chinatown back to life in miniature"
"Excellent documentary movie illustrating the simple and complex dynamics growing up in an ethnic minority community, working in mainstream settings, coping and managing oppression and discrimination through creative expressive art."
"...lovely, rich...full of such detail and unspoken gaps...a complex portrait of a man and his memory."
"... the film explores broader themes within the human experience... memory, legacy and socio-cultural shifts...highly effective"
"...far more than just a sequence of “talking head” shots- the director uses perfectly executed dissolves, an evocative and moving score, and footage of Mr. Wong at work to create a tender, bittersweet and moving picture of the importance of memory."
"...one of the most beautiful and touching documentaries that I have ever seen"
"Can the past ever be retrieved? All mortals fail, but often in the artist's valiant effort something else is achieved. In the case of Frank Wong's dioramas of his childhood memories, as captured by James Q. Chan, it is the murmurs of the heart expressed through the smallest of things."
"...brought tears to my eyes...remarkable. I enjoyed the relationship he has with his Godson - illustrating the importance of relationships between the generations...immigration and education to the U.S. "
"This is SO GOOD. I caught it by accident on TV yesterday morning. I was so moved and amazed, enchanted and emotional watching. Thank you for capturing such a great artist and this rare place. Beautiful nostalgic skilled vision all around. Congratulations."
"...this has helped me critically re-examine the beauty of a community I call my home. Although I may be miles apart from San Francisco...I deeply connect with the documentary."
"...fascinating... the SRO really reminded me of my grandfather's room when he was alive. I was just a little girl and adored him because he actually cared for me the most as both my parents were always working as most immigrants do"
"...makes me think of every object I use and not to be wasteful"
"...helped to renew my faith that, even during these challenging times, there are friendly people in the world who are genuinely interested in learning about others and proudly sharing their own culture."
"An absolutely lovely documentary. Beautiful, mild and implicit."
"A beautifully-crafted short film preserving the legacy of San Francisco's Chinatown. Breathtaking cinematography and nostalgic music intertwined with the intricate storytelling of artist Frank Wong transports you through an experience you will never forget. A must watch on Kanopy!"