The Fall of I-Hotel: Class Discussion

October 22, 2012 at 10:02 pm Leave a comment

The Fall of I-Hotel is a poetic documentary that interweaves interviews with the manongs and government officials with a history of Filipinos in the United States, a documentation of the I-Hotel political protest itself, and the director’s own narration.  The film locates the Filipino manongs’ story within the historical trajectory of other Asian American immigration.  For example, throughout the centuries, the United States recruited Chinese, then Japanese, then Filipinos as low-wage labor.  The I-Hotel movement was a landmark event for the Asian American Movement; it was led by Asian Americans, but developed into a diverse coalition as well.
Social context:
The documentary sheds light on a demonstration that took place on Kearney Street in San Francisco during the 1970’s. The International Hotel, home to an incredibly large number of Asian Americans, mostly Filipino, was faced with the prospect of being torn down. These working-class Asian Americans were being put out by the 4 Seasons, and the 10-block area that was Manilatown was reduced to one block, the site of the I Hotel.
Curtis Choy is considered one of the seminal Asian American filmmakers.  He got his BA in Film from San Francisco State University in 1974 (six years after the 1968 strike for Ethnic Studies), and a BA in Interdisciplinary Social Studies from Westminster College in Missouri in 1975.  In addition to The Fall of I-Hotel, he has also worked on such films as The Joy Luck Club (1993) and Better Luck Tomorrow (2002).

This film was produced by Chonk Moonhunter, which was created as an antithetical space to Hollywood–a space to record Asian American history and define Asian American identity.  Chonk Moonhunter operates outside of the capitalist commercial sphere, and therefore is constantly strapped for funds.  Thus, they characterize their filmmaker as ad hoc and guerilla style.  This is a quote from their website: “The words in the name derive from “chonk”, a term created by poets Curtis Choy and George Leong in San Francisco in 1970 to self-define (in the manner of “Chicano” ) that which was ‘Chinese-American’, and to escape an imposed hyphenation/definition by the lackeys, compradors, and apologists of the power structure, and ‘Moonhunter’, a component of Iron Moonhunter, the legendary Chinaman-built railroad created from stolen Central Pacific Railroad parts that would take them home to China.”


What are the characteristics of an Asian American aesthetic?

cultural purity versus eclecticism?  diversity versus a common thread? pg. 11-12 of Moving the Image

Characteristics of Asian American Cinema aesthetic [which include: A socially committed cinema; created by a people bound by 1) race; 2) interlocking cultural and historical relations; and 3) a common experience of western domination; characterized by diversity shaped through 1) national origin; and 2) the constant flux of new immigration flowing from a westernizing East into an easternizing West.] pg. 12 of Moving the Image

Do you agree with the book’s definition of an Asian American aesthetic?

In what ways does the Fall of I-Hotel embody an Asian American aesthetic?

16mm film was used to shoot The Fall of I-Hotel

Striking Examples of Aestheticism: the scene where the camera is looking through the hallway and into the rooms of the evicted people while the disembodied voice of a policeman tells an evictee that he must leave and he must go now, and the evictee wants to stay and wants to know if he will get his stuff back.  What is the effect of these disembodied voices?

The use of narration is interesting in this film.  Choy’s narrative becomes almost poetic at points.  For example, look at the scene before the protest, in which the camera meanders through empty hallways and Choy quotes Al Robles’ poem to the manongs (see pg. 18 in Moving the Image).  What do you think was the function of this scene? (show this scene in class)

What is Curtis Choy’s investment in this topic?

talk about Pan-Asian identity

How does this film connect with the topic from Tuesday in which we spoke about memory and how does this represent a collective memory either of Asian Americans or of Filipino Americans?

Discuss gender in the film.  How are the manongs represented?

Look at their occupation in the navy and the fact that there aren’t many Filipino women. “Women were excluded from immigrating to the U.S. till 1965.  This prevented family life for an entire generation.” – quoted in the film

Talk about the history of bachelor’s society and its significance.

Through this film we see various intersections of race, class, law and order, and even gender.  What are some examples of these intersections?

What, if anything, surprised you about this film?

-Evyn Espiritu and Cassandra Martinez

Entry filed under: Uncategorized.

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