PLAGUE AT THE GOLDEN GATE takes us back over 100 years before the COVID-19 pandemic shut down the world. Back to a time when an outbreak of bubonic plague in San Francisco’s Chinatown in 1900 unleashed a wave of fear and anti-Asian sentiment. It was the first time in history that civilization’s most feared disease — the infamous Black Death — made it to North America. Two doctors — vastly different in temperament, training and experience — used different methods to lead the seemingly impossible battle to contain the disease before it could engulf the country. In addition to overwhelming medical challenges, they faced unexpected opposition from business leaders, politicians, and even the president of the United States. Fueling the resistance would be a potent blend of political expediency, ignorance, greed, racism, and deep- rooted distrust of not only federal authority but science itself. Scapegoated as the source of the disease early on, the Chinese community fought back against unjust, discriminatory treatment. The gripping story of the desperate race against time to save San Francisco and the nation from the deadly disease, Plague at the Golden Gate is based in part on David K. Randall’s critically acclaimed book, Black Death at the Golden Gate.Director Li-Shin Yu and Producer James Q. Chan join us for a conversation on the social, political, economic and medical reasons that this little known, potentially devastating outbreak disproportionally impacted the San Francisco’s Chinese community and just how close that their callous bigotry came to unleashing a catastrophic scourge on the entire country.
Directed by Li-Shin Yu and executive produced by Cameo George, the film premieres Tuesday, May 24, 2022, 9:00-11:00 p.m. ET (check local listings) on AMERICAN EXPERIENCE on PBS, PBS.org and the PBS Video App.
About the filmmaker – Director, Editor Li-Shin Yu previously co-directed The Chinese Exclusion Act, also for AMERICAN EXPERIENCE. A long-time collaborator of Ric Burns, their most recent film, Oliver Sacks: His Own Life, was a critics choice on the festival and theatrical circuit. Their epic series NEW YORK: a documentary film is an eight-part production chronicling the city’s rise from a remote Dutch outpost to the cultural and economic center of the world, for which Yu received a Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Achievement in Editing. Their other titleshave garnered multiple awards, including numerous Emmys, Peabodys, Writers Guild of America Awards, Dupont-Columbia awards and others. Yu began her career collaborating with New York independent filmmakers including Jim Jarmusch, Spike Lee, Sara Driver and Peter Wang and more recently with documentarians Christine Choy, Bill Moyers, Thomas Lennon and Stanley Nelson.
About the filmmaker – James Q. Chan’s film training/mentorship began alongside two-time Academy-Award winning filmmakers Rob Epstein and Jeffrey Friedman (The Times of Harvey Milk, Common Threads, The Celluloid Closet). Producing credits with Epstein & Friedman include History Channel’s 10 Days That Unexpectedly Changed America (Emmy® Award; Outstanding Non-Fiction Series), Howl (Sundance; Nat’l Board of Review Freedom of Expression Award). James’s producing credits include films about a self taught programming child prodigy :Puck and the Riddle of Codes (IDFA; VPRO); father & son reconciliation Istinma (Best Short, American Indian Film Festival; Smithsonian Showcase); U.S. immigration law impacts on bi-national same-sex couples Entry Denied (Jury Award, Best Short, Provincetown); love and equality Right Down the Line music video for Bonnie Raitt. Prior to filmmaking, James worked as a SAG/AFTRA Talent Agent in San Francisco. Recent producing credits include Plague at the Golden Gate (American Experience, May 2022); Chinatown Rising (America ReFramed, May 2022). Recent directing projects include Bloodline (KQED/Truly CA); large-format 360° Circle Vision films for Disney; and launching the doc series Chinatown Shorts.