OCA Cleveland documentary on Cleveland’s Chinese Americans to air on WKYC Sunday

In 2020, Cleveland filmmaker Johnny Wu and groups with Cleveland film production house MDI and OCA Greater Cleveland set out to tell the stories of Chinese Americans in Cleveland.

Scene from "The History of Cleveland’s Chinatown" - A look through history of Cleveland Chinese community since 150+ years ago.Scene from “The History of Cleveland’s Chinatown" - A look through history of Cleveland Chinese community since 150+ years ago.With funding provided by the Cleveland Foundation‘s Minority Arts & Education Fund, Margaret W. Wong & Associates, and individual donors, the group began conducting interviews to document the oral histories of more than 25 Chinese Americans.

“We talked to as many as we could and we asked them about their history, their lives, and how they grew up,” recalls Wu. “And we put it all together.”

Although the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020 and 2021 slowed them down, in June 2022 OCA Greater Cleveland debuted “The History of Cleveland’s Chinatown—An Oral History of Chinese Americans in Cleveland” in a private showing at Old Stone Church, a church that was instrumental in teaching English to Chinese immigrants in the1920s.

The film is a passion project of the filmmakers to tell the 150-year journey of Chinese Americans, their struggles, their triumphs, and the American dream in Northeast Ohio.

“The documentary tells the story of Chinese Americans living in Cleveland, their contribution, and how they built today’s AsiaTown,” explains Wu. “The City of Cleveland has been embracing all ethnic groups, and we can see it from the many people we interviewed.”

The film will make its public broadcast premiere this Sunday, Feb. 19 at 12 p.m. on WKYC Channel 3.

Wu says he, editor Nick Muhlbach and the rest of the documentary team made up of Lisa Wong
Aryavarta Kumar, Vera Boggs, and Kyle Znamenak were looking at a lot of footage when film was complete.

“Originally, it was five hours long,” says Wu of the unedited documentary. Ultimately, they created 56-, 60-, and 79-minute versions to show at film festivals. “It was really hard to edit out some parts,” he says, “but had to do it.”

“The History of Cleveland’s Chinatown” was shown in 2022 at the Greater Cleveland Urban Film Festival, the Chagrin Documentary Film Festival, and the Indie Gathering International Film Festival. The documentary also won the best editing award at the 2022 Stanley Film Awards and was named best trailer at the 2022 Horror Hotel International Film Festival and Convention.

In addition to the WKYC screening this weekend, the film is a part of Case Western Reserve University's Faces of Chinatown Exhibit on Thursday, Feb 22. from 4:30 p.m. to 7 p.m. at the Kelvin Smith Library.

Karin Connelly Rice
Karin Connelly Rice

About the Author: Karin Connelly Rice

Karin Connelly Rice enjoys telling people's stories, whether it's a promising startup or a life's passion. Over the past 20 years she has reported on the local business community for publications such as Inside Business and Cleveland Magazine. She was editor of the Rocky River/Lakewood edition of In the Neighborhood and was a reporter and photographer for the Amherst News-Times. At Fresh Water she enjoys telling the stories of Clevelanders who are shaping and embracing the business and research climate in Cleveland.