In the early days of Visual Communications, we went out to community events and simply shot what was interesting to us. On a cool January evening in 1973, I went to the LA Chinese New Year’s Parade and was mesmerized by the Chinese Drum and Bugle Corps aka the LA Chinese Imperial Dragons. I wondered why would parents want their children to be in something as regimented and militaristic such as a marching band. This led me to meet the parents and teens in the group, who were very receptive to the idea of having a VC film crew document them in 1974.
What started out as a cine-verite look at a Chinese American marching band became a film essay on the Chinese American middle class. The title of the documentary “Chinatown Two-Step” alludes to the movement of generation of poor Chinatown kids who grew up during the Depression to become more economically secure, thoroughly Americanized folk. Becoming middle class professionals meant moving out of Chinatown and to suburbia where there were opportunities for their kids to socialize with other Chinese Americans. Thus, for the children, drum corps provided a pre-mating dance of sorts.