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San Francisco International Asian American Film Festival

Sunday, March 13, 2011
6:00 p.m. Charlie Chan at the Olympics
H. Bruce Humberstone (U.S., 1937)

Yunte Huang in Conversation

Yunte Huang is professor of English at UC Santa Barbara and author of a new book on Charlie Chan.

The screening will include a conversation between Stephen Gong, executive director of the Center for Asian American Media, and Yunte Huang, followed by a book signing.

The selection of a Charlie Chan film for an Asian American film festival might have been inconceivable until the recent publication of Yunte Huang’s remarkable book on the real-life Charlie Chan, Charlie Chan: The Untold Story of the Honorable Detective and His Rendezvous with American History. Huang weaves the history of the various film incarnations of Chan into his biography, focusing on the Twentieth-Century-Fox portion of the series, which starred Warner Oland and Keye Luke. With dry humor and irony, Huang, himself a Chinese immigrant to the United States, reveals a history of multiple layers. Charlie Chan at the Olympics is one of the best and most interesting of the sixteen Oland/Luke films. The mystery centers on an airplane’s stolen radio-controlled “black box,” but greater interest is supplied by the film’s setting, the 1936 Berlin Olympics (filmed simultaneously by Leni Riefenstahl for Triumph of the Will), at which America’s diversity, embodied by Jesse Owens, undercut Hitler’s case for Aryan superiority.

—Stephen Gong

• Written by Paul Burger, based on characters created by Earl Derr Biggers. Photographed by Daniel B. Clark. With Warner Oland, Keye Luke, Katherine DeMille, Pauline Moore. (71 mins, B&W, 35mm)