The Curse of Quon Gwon (1916), earliest known film with an all Asian American cast and directed by female Chinese American filmmaker Marion Wong / Credit: Cordelia SiporinAfter being restored by Montclair resident Cordelia Siporin, the silent film The Curse of Quon Gwon (1916), the earliest known film with an all Asian American cast, will be screened virtually next Friday, June 4. The film was directed, written, edited, and produced by Marion E. Wong, a Chinese American woman.
The partial premier, by the Women and the Silent Screen Conference at Columbia University, will take place at 7 p.m.
“For decades, the plot of this film was considered permanently lost; no inter-titles or script survived, and watching the film was a rather baffling experience–until now,” Siporin, film professor at Fairleigh Dickinson University and the daughter of Michael Siporin, the man who founded the Film Department at Montclair State University, said.
“For the past year and a half, I have been working on a restoration of the missing title cards by studying the actors’ pantomime and translating it into an approximation of what I, and the silent film scholars at Columbia University, believe they are saying. This has revealed the film to be not only coherent, but dramatic, exciting, suspenseful, engaging, and shockingly progressive for its time,” she added.
The screening will be followed by a panel discussion on Saturday June 5 at 3 p.m. with Gregory Mark, the grandson of the film’s star and grand-nephew of the director, as a part of the Women: Film Pioneers Project.
“It is also timely, of course, not only because of the connection to restoring the suppressed progressive narratives of AAPI that have existed in this country for over a hundred years,” Siporin said. “But because this is now the second time that a 100-year pandemic has interfered with this particular film’s release, as it was originally postponed in 1918 due to the outbreak of the Spanish Influenza pandemic.”