|AUDIENCE REVIEWS BELOW|
"Touching and incisive...Now Chinatown looks great!"
Kevin Thomas, Los Angeles Times excerpt
Now Chinatown with Lianne X. Hu, Steven Dunning
Writer/producer/director Steven Dunning
"A believable and impressive debut by hyphenate Dunning."
I am always slightly worried when starting to screen a film that is written, directed, produced and starred by the same person. Steven Dunning proved me wrong. His film "Now Chinatown" is enchanting and captivating. His dedication to his craft in front of and behind the camera promise a strong career. The story line flows smoothly, and in the scenes, where action slows down, the well composed and performed music fills the screen. Excellent entertainment that makes you think the values of human life!
Me Naiset, Finland
Absolute Marbella, Spain
"It's a brilliant, universal, and moving story which everyone can relate to.
What he (Steven Dunning) has done wearing all hats as a writer/producer/director/actor is miraculous. The dialogue was sweetly subtle and so well-written, the whole movie has a magical realism. The large cast of characters are intriguing. A marvelous chemistry exists between Dunning and Hu. A truly excellent debut. Four stars."
Hollywood Foreign Press Association
Throughout this country's history, people from various parts of the world come to America in search of political and religious freedom, in search of economic opportunities, but unfortunately are stereotyped as they try to assimilate into American society - their possible contributions to our society are overlooked. NOW CHINATOWN (Darque Pictures) depicts this subject to subtly introduce us to a simple but moving story about one Chinese group in our environment - a story that may be a forerunner of a great number of stories about our multi-ethnic society in America.
STEVEN DUNNING, NOW CHINATOWN's young producer, director, writer, actor and casting director, traveled the world extensively and on his own so he can talk and live with real people, so he can learn more about their lives, their needs, their dreams. As a result, his NOW CHINATOWN provides us with a modern and deprived of stereotyping approach to looking into the heart and soul of the Chinese in our immediate environment. The film tells us of these people's strife to fulfill their dreams, to overcome hardships they encounter trying to adjust to a new way of life. As a matter of fact, ever since this young filmmaker started as a production assistant - ten years ago - making a film about China has become his life goal. Now that the film is ready to be shown, STEVEN notes:
"Doing it all alone with no money or studio was and still is like climbing Mount Everest twice. Hopefully, all this will be worth the effort if the film reaches someone, if it becomes beneficial to anyone..."
It took STEVEN DUNNING eighteen days to shoot NOW CHINATOWN. An unbelievable schedule for a feature film of studio quality. Filmed in the Chinatown section of Los Angeles and in Santa Monica, this film goes beyond Chinatown in order to provide viewers with a broader experience, an experience that gives hope not just to LEE, but also to all other immigrants including just as hard working Americans who may be taking life in America for granted.
NOW CHINATOWN is definitely a warm and touching drama, a memorable and an uplifting experience made luminous by LIANNE X. HU, a talented Chinese actress who is making her American debut with her extremely impressive and unforgettable interpretation of a young Chinese girl (LEE), who succeeds to free herself from a tradition in her home land that demands blind obedience. She comes to America to help her dying grandmother by working as a teacher. Instead, her uncle's friend, the owner of a restaurant in Chinatown, employs her under most difficult conditions as a waitress. Struggling to stay honorable to her traditions, while realizing her desire to become somebody who can make a difference, LEE breaks her silence and in tears lets everyone know:
"In China, my family told me what to do because it was good for me... And then, I come to America, and I still do what I am told..."
Encouraged by STEVEN (Steven Dunning) - a young American whom LEE befriends in the restaurant, by a young Chinese buss-boy and by an older Chinese lady who becomes her mentor, to believe in herself, LEE realizes that making money the way she did was not the only way to reaching one's goals. She realizes that all this time that she was in Los Angeles, she has never even had the chance to visit Griffith Park, the beach or any other part of the city. Consequently and in spite of her owner's warning, LEE in vain continues to plead for compassion and understanding:
"I have nobody here... All I hear is don't talk to anyone... don't be late..., don't be lazy..., don't go out with boys..., don't tell or you'll be sent back..."
* * *
All in all, STEVEN DUNNING, the producer, director, writer, actor and the casting director of NOW CHINATOWN is making an impressive debut as a filmmaker. He is not only a multi-talented individual, but also a refreshing addition to the field of filmmaking. His hear-felt portrayal of these Chinese in our environment, his sensitivity for America's diverse society, his ability to pave a road to togetherness and a meaningful coexistence of all, as well as his dream to be given a chance to say much more in the future should not be overlooked. His film NOW CHINATOWN is a contemporary drama and truly a memorable experience. It is a type of entertainment that broadens horizons, that breathes understanding and compassion, that brings hope...
* * *
Hollywood Press Correspondent
|Paramount Studios Industry Screening
"Now Chinatown" is a remarkable achievement for first-time director/writer/producer Steven Dunning. It is an important story that needed to be told about a girl from China who is working in America to help pay for her grandmother's needs. She is practically an indentured servant in the Chinatown restaurant where she works.
This is something, unfortunately, that is happening very often in real life. There are many poignant scenes, particularly when the Empress, a local Chinatown dignitary played by award-winning actress June Kyoko Lu, gives comfort advice to Lee, the young woman played by Lianne X. Hu.
Hollywood News Service
From the desk of Susan Jordan
The individual who pays serious attention to the movies is always seeking the perfect movie. That is a movie with is powerful, caring, bold, striking, original and which tells a powerful story about characters which the viewer cares for. Such a movie is Steven Dunning*s "Now Chinatown" which recently was shown in the Egyptian Theater in Hollywood. This reviewer was blown away by this production.
Set in the Chinatown neighborhood of Los Angeles, this movie explores the complex interactions in a immigrant neighborhood and the search for redemption of a young Chinese girl. There is no end to the superlatives which may be said about this movie. The acting is magnificent, the casting superb, the script is obviously crafted by a men who loves the English language, and the story line is captivating and fascinating.
But what is more interesting is that this production was made with virtually no money. The writer/ producer/director/star Steven Dunning paid his dues while working for ten years in the film business and called in his chips to make this movie. Yet the movie never seems to be cheaply made and although it is clear that all the setups are shot in real places. One never notices the lack of the artificial glitz which mainstream Hollywood seem to believe may be substituted for a good script and vision.
The movie tells the story of Lee, a young girl who had immigrated to the U.S. from China. She works in a small restaurant in Chinatown where she is unmercifully abused by those around her. She is eventually befriended by a American customer who mistakes her restaurant for another much better eatery with a similar name.
At first the movie seems to be simply an interracial/cultural romance. Yet it quicky shifts into a deeper examination of the life of a young girl living in an alien society cut off from the cultural cues of her homeland. The character Lee is played by Lianne X. Hu, a young actress who previously played a small role which did not make the final cut in Albert Brooks's "The Muse." Hu*s performance is captivating as she combines in her character both shyness and personal strength is a character who is faced with a bleak and dreary future and yet will eventually overcome all.
The climax of the film occurs at a banquet staged for a local official. Well played by Michael Yama, whose previous credits include "Raiders of the Lost Arc" , "Marathon Man", "E.R.", "The Practice," "Dr. Doolittle," and "Contact," the diplomat explains decades of his life and the current situation in which Lee finds herself in a few short sentences. Although he is the villain of the movie, he reveals himself to be a complex character who only arrived in his current situation after years of struggle. That he criminally exploits his power over those weaker than himself is tragic. Yet he is by no means a cardboard villain. Rather he, like all the other characters in this well crafted drama, does not control his life. Everyone here is controlled by transcendental forces which are beyond their ability to manipulate or even recognize. Only in the end does Lee manage to escape the fate that everyone else in the movie seems to be foreordained to suffer.
The catalyst for change is the American interloper who appears at the restaurant to purchase a meal. Well played by Steven Dunning, he is similar to the Gentleman Caller who appears halfway through Tennessee Williams's "Glass Menagerie." His purpose seems to be to disturb the existing order and to force a new relationship of the characters. Dunning fills Steve with compassion, realism and cultural sensitivity. It is worth noting that Dunning did not wish at first to play Steve, but only took over the position when he failed to cast a suitable actor for the part.
This movie is worth seeing. Unless it gets wide distribution this may be difficult to do. If you see it advertised make the effort to see it. You'll be glad that you did.
Beverly Hills Outlook publisher
Susan Jordan reviews film and practices law in Los Angeles. She is a violinist who has played in a number of community orchestras, including the Doctors Symphony of Los Angeles.
SOME GENERAL AUDIENCE OPINIONS:
I saw "NOW CHINATOWN" twice... I was just glued to the screen and could barely breathe for fear of missing anything! The actress who played Mei Lee ( I'll visit that part of your site in a moment) was exceptional!!! No offense Mr. Dunning, you were great too, but she just knocked me flat!
Thanks for accepting my entry and for such a great movie. When it's released I'll tell as many friends as I can!
I was kind of expecting "Living on Tokyo Time" but found so much more.
I think just about everything went right with this film, one of those moments when I guess it all just comes together. Superb casting, acting, etc. looking forward to your next film. I'd like to be first in line if you decide to sell a DVD version of this film.
We watched the film and it was FABULOUS! Great direction, great photography, great lighting, great music, great acting, and the storyline and writing was wonderful. It broke our hearts but what inspiration! We enjoyed meeting you at WGBB and sharing the airwaves with you.
Wishing you all the best,
Mary Lamont and Jim Marchese, NYC
The movie was exceptionally written and the plot was compelling!!!!
I just wanted to say thank you for such a captivating and elegant
movie. I just saw the film today and I loved it.
Stay true to your vision and all the very best.
Gregory P. Cobbs
We came for another film that was sold out and that was our good luck because we figured we've give yours a try. What a wonderful thing for us! Your film was terrific and pulled up all our emotions, even our male dates were crying!! Hah, you got us all this time, hope you make another and this one gets out there so we can bring some friends to see it again. Nice job Mr. Dunning!
Suzax, New York
Dear Steve Stunning,
I have seen your film Now Chinatown. I felt extremely happy about that. Certainly, I am also pleased to know you won reward in New York, you deserve it. To be a successful person, it is not a piece of cake. However, your dream which working in the film industry has become true. After reading your personal record, I could imagine how hard you would have worked at the very beginning of the bottom ten
years ago. Well done! Steve. You just keep going on and pursuing your
dream. It is not surprised you will become a famous director and film
Good Luck, Steve!
It was great, I would love to be put on your mailing list. Also, who do I have to kill to get an autographed video or poster?
I can tell you have a great future in the industry!
I just wonder what is to become of Lee. Her sadness and anger must be so vast.
Can she overcome that and really live?...We all have such sadness
in us....that is why we relate to her.....But at one point I could almost
stand no more hardship for her.......and the reality of a real life
woman in that situation is probably FAR worse.
Thank you for your creativity.
The movie was incredible!! It made me cry (im a guy too) and it was
done really well especially due to the fact that it was filmed in only 18
short days. This was an incredible movie and I will definetly buy or win
the video and I will also buy a poster. I saw that there are autographs
posters by Steven and by Lianne (sp?)? I would really like one :)
We came to see your film at the Long Island Festival and must tell you it was excellent. We have not seen such an emotionally moving story for quite some time. The actors were fantastic and we forgot we were even watching a film. Anyone can relate to this even though it is set in Chinatown. My husband was crying along with me and that is rare. It brought back many memories for me growing up and you deserve all the success in the world. Please let us know when it is at the regular
theater. I want to recommend it to my friends and releatives. My husband said you did everything on the film yourself. Your acting was very natural, I didn't realize all your roles until it was over. Please keep making films like these. Thank you and good luck,
Mark and Mary Leiberman
A most-welcome change from the norm - hopeful this is the beginning
of many more to come from this talented filmmaker!
TO STEVE AND ALL THE PEOPLE WHO SUPPORTED HIM. I SAW THIS IN NEW YORK BUT LIVE IN LA. I HEARD ABOUT THIS ON 97.1 FM IN LA AND SAW STEVE ON TV, VERY WELL SPOKEN.
I WISH YOU ALL THE BEST IN THE WORLD. YOU HAVE CREATED A
FILM WHICH WILL BE AROUND FOR A LONG TIME.
KEEP UP THE GOOD WORK!
Just found the film wonderful. I've always been interested
in Chinese culture. You captured the pain of leaving contemporary China
to become indentured in the US, perfectly. And I loved the ending.
Congrats on what seems to have been a family affair.
You might add that I and many people to whom I have recommended
the film will look out for other showings, and for further films from Mr. Dunning.
Best, Merry Nolan Kelly
Dear Mr. Dunning,
I just happened to catch your film. What a lucky break for me! My
eight year old son was with me and complained,
but in minutes, he was engrossed as well. Instead of the typical
"Boy meets girl, boy loses girl, boy gets girl" It was "Boy meets girl,
boy empowers girl, girl sets herself free". How refreshing!
How beautiful. This was a brilliant and captivating story.
It expressed many complex themes but it was conveyed with
such entertaining simplicity that my little boy thoroughly enjoyed it.
He and I talked about sociology and freedom all afternoon.
Obviosly, this film was targeted for adults, but the very mature
subplots went right over my son's head and I was there with him to talk
about the prevalent issues. I thank you for the lessons you taught my son and I thank you for the reminders to me about taking my rights for granted. The messages stuck with us.
This was a real triumph on many levels. Congratulations on a supurb
first effort. You really know how to capture the human spirit. I will watch
for your future work.
Just thought I'd take a minute to say I thoroughly agree with the note about the mother and eight year old son who went to see your movie and their positive reaction to it. She said very well what I was not able to put into words when I went to see it. It's very encouraging to read other people's reactions that are "higher level" rather than the "dumbed down" approach we seem to be saturated with in the general public. It shows that market is out there! The rest of the audiences are thirsting for more (they don't know what). Be encouraged to continue with this type of movie and people will discover them and soon be demanding more of the same!
All the best to you always! Hope this finds you well,
Your movie, Now Chinatown, stimulated my senses and touched my emotions.Your realistic and sensitive portrayal of a Chinese immigrant girl struggling to survive in the Los Angeles Chinatown offers the viewer a real treat. Your accurate perspective on a subject rarely explored by today's movie industry is a great contribution. You have decided to tackle a subject shrouded in mystery to most people. Most Americans have no concept of the behind-the-scenes drama that may occur daily at a Chinese Restaurant. Steve, you had succeeded in unfolding this subject in such a way that all audiences can not only understand but also connect and sympathize with the plight of the main character. Your movie is not only entertaining but it is also educating. Too bad there are not enough movies like yours out there in that vast Hollywood landscape. Please keep me posted about your future projects. I would love to get a
tape of Now Chinatown when it becomes available. Your film was just superb! Please let me know when will you be in New York. I would like to meet you.
Best of luck!
HARVARD Club of New York City
I saw your film even though I had no idea what it was,
and I have a very low tolerance for today's content, but I was immediately
captivated. Ranks as one of the top two films I've ever watched.
You embarrassed me in front of my two leading actresses because you had me
crying. It was awesome, awesome. You really have a great screen presence and I'll tell you what, if someone in Hollywood doesn't buy that they should be in a mental institution!
Excellent piece of work. What you did there was really something.
Academy Award Winning Actor
|You are more than welcome and I look forward to seeing you in the future. Your film is amazing!
Yes, thanks for the follow up, and the extra print. I have the signed one framed in my office, and the "extra" on my home office wall. Kind of odd... I've got Liane Hu giving me this almost "locked in" wanting look, with so much emotion hidden in the eyes, and you watching over her shoulder with that in-control, director-like confidence. Given that her character strongly represents a friend of mine (in personality and
situation), and I view your independent success with admiration, the poster is quite inspirational.
How are you? This is Jennifer Yen. Like I mentioned during the festival, I thoroughly enjoyed your film and I can certainly relate to it. I'm very impressed and it was well portrayed. Yes, definitely add me to your
mailing list. I appreciate it.
Happy Holidays and Congratulations!
All the best,
It was good to run into you again last night at the Egyptian. Once more, Ireally enjoyed Now Chinatown... it's the kind of movie that sticks with you long after it's over. Not many films do this for me.
It was my pleasure to see your movie "Nowchinatown". It was a great movie.I have a little bit same experience with Lee.I came to the USA last year by myself for the first time and I was 18 years old.It was
very hard to me to adapt in the new enviroment because I didn't know anybody and I didn't have family or relative here.I didn't have a friend to whom I trust. I didn't have a friend to whom I talk,especially if I had a problem.I just kept in my mind and I tried to solve by myself,because at the time I didn't have a friend who came from my country.I was the only one student from Indonesia.The most difficulty is if I felt "Homesick". I miss my dad,my mom,my sister,and all myfriends in my country.I didn't know what I should do.Sometime I just cried like Lee.Sometime my friend said that I'm so lucky because I could come to America,but in the fact they didn't know how hard I tried to struggle live in the USA alone without my family.So I think the story was very close with my condition,so I could understand what Lee's felt.It was
very dramatic movie.It was like a real story,so the movie "Nowchinatown" is an Excellent movie that I haven't seen before.The story was well written,so it was a perfect story.I really cried a lot, just like her in the movie.Congratulation Steve I really love your movie and I wish I could see your movie again.
I can see the hard work you've done. The movie sure had it's moments - in sight and sound. I relate well to your work, not only because of my extensive travel throughout Asia and the world when I was 19 and 20, but also because of a class I had at Cal State L.A. - the "Asian American Experience."
So you are a traveler! Big difference between vacationer and traveler. Only the traveler will have a chance to look through the window of culture, but you must be bold enough to do so. Once you've done that, you are changed forever. Never again will you have the luxury of limited judgement of other cultures caused by one's own cultural egocentrism. You know, it almost sounds as if my intellectual description has made light of it; looking through that window is one of life's great experiences. At any rate, I was fortunate to have truly amazing things happen to me, and I love relating to other "travelers" through the stories we have. I hope I get the chance to do that with you someday.
So what's this about a gift? In Now Chinatown there was a scene where Steve was showing Lee pictures of Greece, and to paraphrase, "there is so much history!" Look, you're not getting out of this. You wrote it! So I'm sending some Etruscan fire-starting matches... just kidding; there is no such thing. However, I'm betting you like Greek history, and you probably like historical fiction, so I'm sending you a book.
So why do I want to do this? In part to say thanks, in part because I've enjoyed your company, and in part, because I have pull - I'll have the publisher send it to the author and have him sign it, and then send it on to you. It's in it's first edition, and that'll automatically make it a collector's item. I'm sure you need them. I only need a mailing address.
I hope I get a chance to see you again. Seems I've got marching orders. I'll likely be moving up to the Bay area in about three weeks. Having met you and Jack and Lianne in other circumstances means I still have the power to gravitate to those creative people I admire and enjoy immensely, but it will be a high price to say goodbye for now. Dang!
Don't forget that mailing address!
I am interested in the video. I've heard alot of good buzz on it.
Upon returning home I told my family about the film producer I met on the flight! I then went on to describe to them about a most unusual man I had the privilege of meeting. I still can't come to terms with, how a super soul like you can fit in to the movie world?
Monday came and I was back into the monotony of daily working life. It was indeed refreshing to receive your note along with the invitation for the sneak preview. How I wish I could be there to see it. I hope the preview evening goes well for you . I shall keep a lookout for the film to be released in U. K.
Please keep in touch for all the progress and let me know when you are coming to England next.
With best wishes and regards.
To. Mr Steven Dunning
Hello Steven how are you? it was very nice to see your movie in London. so how was your trip?
By the way thank you very much that you gave us a chance to see your movie in London.( we were 3 of us, 2 boys and me, can you remeber us?)it was very nice of you and the movie is still in side my mind very clearly. thank you again.i will be in London onther few months so if you would came over to London please let me know. at the moment i have not made any plans to go back to Japan yet but if you are going to Japan next time , it will be nice to see you in Japan too.
after i saw your movie i started to think to go to school to learn how to act . your movie was so impressed me and i also impressed how you are so activity and energeic person. act by your self and produce by your self and came to London by your self to show people your work. anyway it was very much touched my heart and now i also want to do something i really want. it was very nice to meet you in London, and i wish you the best.
To be frank, I am not a person keen on movies, TV programs etc. I never remember a film director's name so quickly, but your name just can not forget. Cause you are both in screen and behind screen, your film touched me a lot. I am a Chinese, so I can say I more understand the film than other western audiences. The music, the culture background, the way of communication....thanks you let me see something I familiar in London through the film. I thought a lot afterward, so I seriously want to share some ideas with you just as I told you after movie ended. I am an overseas student in London, and I had a lot of Chinese friends around me. They all have many interesting stories to live in foreign countries. The culture conflicts always happened in our life. We are foreigners here. However, one friend told me when he went back to China after he had left there for ten years, Chinese regard him as a foreigner. The feeling of lost confused him a lot. We miss China, but when we back, we found they are not the place we lived before, sometimes I think we are just in the middle and nobody understand.
Congratulations! Your talent and potential can't be ignored.
Harvard University Club, NYC
A culturally sensitive film - hard to believe it was written and filmed by a young caucasion American male! The cinematography looked as if it were created by a pro still photographer. Each “still” was like a master photograph. Acting was top notch for a first film. The plot, simple yet touching. Congrats & thanks to Steven Dunning for creating an uplifting film.
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