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Thousand Pieces of Gold

Tuesday, Mar 26, 2019

Location la: Redstone Theater

With director Nancy Kelly and producer Kenji Yamamoto, QWFF Spirit of Queens honorees in person. Welcome remarks by Sandra Schulberg, Executive Director, IndieCollect

Dir. Nancy Kelly. 1991, 105 mins. World premiere of new 4K restoration by IndieCollect, supervised by the filmmaker. With Rosalind Chao, Chris Cooper, Michael Paul Chan, Dennis Dun. Set in a mining town in the 1880s, Thousand Pieces of Gold was developed by the Sundance Institute and premiered at the San Francisco International Film Festival in 1990. It won immediate acclaim for its portrayal of the real-life story of Lalu (Rosalind Chao), a young Chinese woman whose desperately poor parents sell her into slavery. She is trafficked to a nefarious saloonkeeper in Idaho’s gold country. Eventually Charlie, a man of different ilk, played by Chris Cooper, wins her in a poker game and slowly gains her trust. Way ahead of its time, the film resonates even more powerfully today in the era of #MeToo. But Nancy Kelly became a victim of prejudice against women directors within the American film industry, and was never offered another movie to direct in spite of extraordinary reviews from critics. The screening will be followed by a discussion with Kelly and Yamamoto, moderated by Don Cato, Artistic Director of Queens World Film Festival.

“Independent in the best sense of the word, Thousand Pieces of Gold gives us the Old West through a piece of candle-lit silk, hardship diffused through tears and smoke. The landscapes are clear, the action wedded to emotion. This is classic Western filmmaking: the lucid lyricism of a John Ford, a Budd Boetticher, a George Stevens. But, since Kelly is dealing with different kinds of conflicts, the film always seems to be opening up a new world.”— Michael Wilmington, Los Angeles Times

Tickets: $15 ($11 seniors and students / $9 youth (ages 3–17) / free for Museum members at the Film Lover and Kids Premium levels and above).

About Nancy Kelly: A native of North Adams, Massachusetts, Nancy Kelly is self-taught. As a public health educator, she was hired to produce five short dramas about how to drink responsibly. Having fallen in love with filmmaking, she quit her job and moved to the high desert on the California/Nevada border. Though she had never ridden a horse or made a documentary, she learned to do both, making her living as a ranch hand while she shot A Cowhand’s Song and Cowgirls. Both films won awards. Kelly discovered Ruthanne Lum McCunn’s novel Thousand Pieces of Gold while touring with Cowgirls, and immediately saw it as a narrative feature. She and Kenji Yamamoto, her husband and filmmaking partner, spent six years financing the film with support from American Playhouse Theatrical Films, CPB, Film Four International and private investors. Although Kelly’s career as a movie director stalled—the victim of sexism that stymies the career of so many women—she continued to direct documentary films, including Rebels with a Cause, Downside UP, Smitten, and Trust: Second Acts in Young Lives. She is currently developing When We Were Cowgirls, a feminist adventure story loosely based on her own experiences as a ranch hand. Kelly’s work has been supported by the Ford Foundation, John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, ITVS, National Endowment for the Humanities and California Humanities. She has won artist-in-residence fellowships at Yaddo, UCross, the MacDowell Colony and the Banff Center for the Arts. When not in production, she teaches filmmaking at the California College of the Arts.

About Kenji Yamamoto: Kenji Yamamoto and Nancy Kelly have been partnered in life and work since 1980, when they decided to make a movie based on the novel,Thousand Pieces of Gold. Yamamoto served as producer and editor of the film. He is currently making his directorial debut with Hacker House, about a Spanish entrepreneur who risks everything on a Silicon Valley incubation hive where he plays “father” to dozens of nascent entrepreneurs, while neglecting his own children back home in Madrid. A California native, Kenji Yamamoto studied painting, photography and filmmaking at the San Francisco Art Institute and later made narratives and documentaries, mainly about people on the fringes of society. He participated in the Sundance Institute Documentary Editing Lab with Jennifer Maytorena’s New Muslim Cool and won an artist-in-residence fellowship at the Banff Centre for the Arts.