PBS’ documentary strand ‘American Experience’ is prepping a documentary from Emmy Award-winning doc filmmakers Ric Burns and Li-Shin Yu about the Chinese Exclusion Act.
Produced by Steeplechase Films and the Center for Asian American Media, the film looks at the piece of federal legislation – the Chinese Exclusion Act signed by President Chester A. Arthur in 1882 - that singled out as never before a specific race and nationality for exclusion. This piece of legislation made it illegal for Chinese workers to come to America and for those already on U.S. soil to become citizens.
The Chinese Exclusion Act explores this episode in American history and sheds light on aspects of the history of American civil liberties, immigration and culture. The film examines the law from a variety of dimensions, including economic, cultural, social, legal, racial and political; the forces and events that led to its creation; and its lingering effects on American culture and identity.
“The story of the Chinese Exclusion Act – from long before it was signed into law in 1882, to long after it was repealed sixty-one years later in 1943 – is not simply an American immigration story – it is THE American immigration story,” said the directors in a joint statement. “Starting after the Gold Rush and continuing long after repeal of the federal legislation during the Second World War, Chinese exclusion was the crucible in which the American debate over immigration and national identity first took shape and was forged. Nothing tells us more about how we have become the nation we are today.”
The film features the voices of Russell Wong, Fenton Lee, Yuet-fung Ho and Josh Hamilton, and is narrated by Banshee actor Hoon Lee.
The Chinese Exclusion Act premieres on May 29 at 8 p.m. ET/PT on ‘American Experience.’