The Curse of Quon Gwon: When the Far East Mingles with the West is a black-and-white silent film that was recently rescued from the basements of a Chinese American family. Filmed circa 1916, The Curse of Quon Gwon was apparently never released and long thought to be lost or destroyed.
Restored in 2006 by the Academy Film Archive from the two reels preserved by filmmaker Arthur Dong, The Curse of Quon Gwon has now become on record the earliest known Chinese American feature film. It is also one of the earliest films directed by a woman, Marion E. Wong.
In 1968, one of Marion Wong’s descendent, Violet Wong, showed the film to her family at Christmas in her Oakland basement. The 35-minute silent movie had been in one family’s possession since 1916, but parts of the film is still missing.
Now, almost 100 years after it was made, it’s shedding light on the lives of Chinese in North America. Not only is the Curse of Quon Gwon the earliest example of Chinese American filmmaking, it is one of the few silent American feature films made by a woman.
Written and directed by Marion E. Wong, it was produced in 1916-17 by the Mandarin Film Company in Oakland, California. Wong, born 1895 in San Francisco, also plays the film’s apparent villainess. Many of the actors in the movie are family members, including Wong’s sister- in-law, Violet Wong (the heroine), and Marion’s mother, Chin Shee (the elder matron). Other family members were involved in different aspects of the film’s production, including costuming and finance.