After Chinatown (colour photographic series)

Colour photographic series

After Chinatown


single channel video, black & white with audio, 07:09 mins

series of 6 colour photographs 40x60cm

collection of found objects, cinema posters and ephemera


My research and experience from making ‘Making Chinatown’ in Los Angeles in early 2012, led to the creation of ‘After Chinatown’.
Triggered by the iconic last line of Polanski’s 1974 ‘neo-noir’ homage to film noir detective movies from the ’40s – ‘Forget it, Jake, it’s Chinatown’ – I found I couldn’t ‘forget it’ – instead I embarked on a research journey into the legacy of ‘Chinatown’ as a cinematic symbol (of despair? helplessness? lawlessness? etc).

I play 2 characters, a detective and a femme fatale, both in disguise, wearing a mask or a wig and sunglasses, adopting the look of classic film noir protagonists. The resulting video is in black and white, 4:3 format, and the soundtrack is composed of film noir theme music played backwards. After Chinatown

The 2 figures are walking through what looks to be ‘Chinatown’, though the location keeps shifting between Los Angeles, San Francisco and Hong Kong.
To shoot this, I retraced the journeys made by the early Chinese immigrants who traveled from Hong Kong to California.
Los Angeles, San Francisco and Hong Kong became cinematic cities and the footage that I captured harks back to old films from Hollywood or Hong Kong.
The 2 protagonists, the detective and the femme fatale, seem to be either searching for somebody, or running away from somebody; it is never made clear. It can be an imagined narrative of men looking for their wives or daughters, or women looking for their fathers, husbands or sons, separated by time, geography, history and circumstance. It can also be a metaphor for running away from one’s past or searching for one’s identity.
In any case, it reflects how we are all part of a continuum, linked by and distorted by one’s destiny, history, geography, cultural legacy, etc.