First Chinese-American movie screens Sept. 14

And it’s free.

“The Curse of Quon Gwon,” written and directed in 1916 by Oakland filmmaker Marion Wong, then 21, is considered the first Chinese-American movie.

Wong, who started the first Chinese-American film company the year before and reportedly kept it going until 1921, cast her sister-in-law Violet as a Mary Pickford-ish heroine. She also gave her mother a role.

Inspired by her family’s 1911-12 trip to China, the film flopped. With a so-it-goes philosophy, Wong gave copies to family members. One sat in Violet’s basement until 1968, when she asked her grandson, Gregory Yee Mark, then 20, to do something with it.

And so began a process that led to the silent’s being re-edited from 35mm to 16mm and transferred to DVD — with assists from filmmaker Arthur Dong and the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences
You can check out the result at 5:15 p.m. Sunday when “The Curse of Quon Gwon” screens at the Niles Essanay Silent Film Museum, 37417 Niles Blvd., Fremont.

It will follow a 4 p.m. discussion by Mark, now a Sacramento State professor of Asian American Studies, and Mai Lon Gittlesohn, Mark’s aunt.

A question-and-answer period will follow the screening. Contact 510-494-1411 or

And by the way: It’s free.

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