San Francisco native Arthur Dong’s film career began with Public (1970), an animated Super-8 film shot on his bedroom floor. Based on a poem written by Dong, Public tells the story of a child’s response to oppressive societal norms and the culture of violence surrounding him. The five-minute film earned first prize at the California High School Film Festival and was the young filmmaker’s first introduction to the power of film as a tool for progressive change. In his award-winning films since then, Dong has continued to combine the art of the visual medium with an investigation of social issues.
As a film student at San Francisco State University, Dong produced Sewing Woman (1982), a documentary about his mother’s immigration to American from China. The film went on to receive an Academy Award® nomination, and instead of signing with a distributor, Dong started his own company, DeepFocus Productions, Inc, which continues to develop, produce, and distribute his work. In 1984, Dong was selected a Directing Fellow to attend the American Film Institute’s Center for Advanced Film Studies. Lotus (1987), a half-hour drama about the foot-binding of Chinese women, was produced with the support of a production grant from the American Film Institute’s Independent Filmmakers Program.
Dong followed-up with Forbidden City, U.S.A. (1989), a documentary on Chinese American nightclubs in 1940s San Francisco. He then produced thirteen documentaries for the Los Angeles PBS program on KCET-TV, Life & Times (1991-1992). For PBS’s first national series on the gay and lesbian issues, The Question of Equality, Dong directed the premiere episode, Out Rage '69 (1995), which explored the New York City Stonewall Riots, an event many historians cite as the catalyst for the modern gay and lesbian civil rights movement.
“Stories from the War on Homosexuality,” Dong’s first DVD collection, puts together his trilogy of films covering the challenges and conflicts over gay issues. It includes Family Fundamentals (2002), a look at America’s culture wars over homosexuality as experienced by three conservative Christian families with gay children, Licensed to Kill (1997), a study of murderers who killed gay men, and Coming Out Under Fire (1994), an examination of the World War II origins of the military’s policies governing gay and lesbian service members.
Dong’s latest feature, Hollywood Chinese (2007), is a visual and cultural history of the Chinese in American feature films. He explains, “With Hollywood Chinese, I take a lifelong affection for film and combine it with a quest to understand the complexities of cinema. It’s my journey into the world of Hollywood moviemaking, to discover how stories and images of the Chinese ft within an entertainment industry that mixes art with commerce, a universal art form that affects the way we see ourselves and each other.”
In addition to an Oscar® nomination, Dong has earned a George Foster Peabody Award, three Sundance Film Festival awards, the Berlin Film Festival’s Teddy Award, and five Emmy nominations. His numerous awards for public service include the Asian American Media Award from Asian CineVision, the Historian Award from the Chinese Historical Society of America, two consecutive GLAAD Media Awards (Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation), and the OUT 100 Award from OUT magazine, which was presented to Dong "for waging a one-man anti-violence project with his documentary on convicted murderers of homosexuals, Licensed to Kill. Indeed, “for his continued success in the challenging arena of independent documentary filmmaking and his longstanding commitment to social justice,” San Francisco State University named Dong its 2007 Alumnus of the Year.
Dong’s feature-length documentaries have been theatrically distributed throughout America and his films have and continue to be featured in hundreds of festivals worldwide. In addition to domestic broadcasts on PBS and the Sundance Chann
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