Eighth ‘Films at the Gate’ recognizes Chinese culture with movies
By Lan Nguyen
As night descended, friends and family made their way to the Chinatown Gate on Sept. 13 to 15. They were greeted with a panda mascot, colorful balloons, popcorn and rows of folding chairs in front of a projector screen.
Films at the Gate began with a lion dance from Wah Lum Kung Fu Athletic Association. Audience members enjoyed Chinese films such as “Mismatched Couple,” starring Bostonian Donnie Yen.
Each year, residents of Chinatown are treated to an outdoor movie theater for three nights of kung-fu movies with English subtitles. Now in its eighth year, Films at the Gate celebrates, revitalizes and preserves the traditions and culture of the Chinatown community.
Screening kung-fu movies in the middle of Chinatown may seem like a novelty, but for those who frequented Chinatown before the’80s, this was the norm. Moviegoers could stop by The Pagoda, Star Cinema or China Cinema. These theaters were often packed with couples on dates and families with small children. When home video rentals became popular, the cinemas shut down.
The tradition of watching Chinese-language films in Chinatown would not be revived until 2006. Films at the Gate was created by Boston Street Lab, Jean Lukitsh and the Asian Community Development Corporation.
Films at the Gate had a nostalgic effect. Mark Le, who came to the festival with his wife, said, “We used to watch them in Chinatown all the time. It’s great to come back here and watch them like we used to. Plus it’s free.”
Anna Chen, 27, used to stay up late watching Chinese dramas as a teen. But as she grew older, work consumed her time and watching Chinese dramas became less of a priority. Still, she remembers them fondly. “It’s a great way to unwind and they really helped me with my Chinese,” she said.
Tuyen Nguyen came to Boston from Vietnam in the 1980s. She went to the Chinatown cinemas to practice English by reading movie subtitles.
Films at the Gate’s goal is to build the Chinatown community for the future. All purchases and donations from film festival will go toward ACDC’s housing and youth programs.