EXCLUSIVE: We’ve got your first look at Karen Cho’s documentary Big Fight in Little Chinatown, ahead of its world premiere on Friday at DOC NYC.
The film examines an existential threat to Chinatown neighborhoods in three North American cities — New York, Vancouver and Montreal — whose unique character and cultural importance is threatened by development and gentrification.
“From the construction of a Chinatown mega jail in NYC, Montreal Chinatown’s fight against predatory developers, to a Vancouver Chinatown business holding steadfast,” a description of the documentary notes, “the film reveals how Chinatown is both a stand-in for other communities who’ve been wiped off the city map, and the blueprint for inclusive and resilient neighborhoods of the future.”
Big Fight in Little Chinatown premieres Friday afternoon at DOC NYC, the country’s largest all-documentary festival, with an additional in-person screening on Sunday. It is available through the festival’s online screening portal from Saturday, November 12 through Sunday, November 27.
“Big Fight in Little Chinatown is a story of community resistance and resilience,” a release states. “Set against the backdrop of the Covid pandemic and an unprecedented rise in anti-Asian racism, the documentary takes us into the lives of residents, businesses and community organizers whose neighborhoods are facing active erasure.”
One resident of New York’s Chinatown says in the trailer, “We’re here in America – fifth generation Chinese-American — and we’ve developed home here.” Another resident observes, “If you think about where it’s located, that really makes Chinatown a neighborhood that the city really wants to take back to make a lot of money off of.”
Cho was born in Montreal and educated at Concordia University. Her bio notes she is a “fifth-generation descendant of the ‘Low Wah Kiu’ (Old Overseas Chinese) who came to Canada during the gold rush and railway years… Karen’s first film In the Shadow of Gold Mountain (2004) explored the Chinese Canadian immigration experience, the legacy of the Head Tax and Exclusion act, and examined how legislated racism in Canada affected Chinese side of her family while her European ancestors were rewarded for immigrating.
“The experience of making this film helped shape Karen’s vision as a documentarian committed to exploring stories from underrepresented communities and expanding the notion of Canadian identity and history.”
Cho works spans film and television. Her additional films credits include Seeking Refuge (2009), a film following asylum seekers in Canada, and Status Quo? The Unfinished Business of Feminism in Canada (2012), winner of Best Documentary at the Whistler Film Festival.
Watch the trailer for Big Fight in Little Chinatown above.