As with many plans for April 2020, Covid-19 derailed the start of the theatrical run of Thousand Pieces of Gold by Nancy Kelly and Kenji Yamamoto. However, the film was championed by Kino Lorber who acquired it in 2019 after the film was remastered and re-digitized by IndieCollect and honored at the 9th Annual Queens World Film festival. Instead of the live run, the film became part of the Kino Lorber virtual cinemas, making it possible for it to be screened in over 40 virtual cinemas achieving a 91% rating on Rotten Tomatoes!
Stars Rosalind Chao and Chris Cooper, screenwriter Anne Makepeace, producer Kenji Yamamoto and director Nancy Kelly participated in scores of livestream Q&As in multiple time zones including this engaging talkback with BAM.
Set in a mining town in 19th Century China, Nancy Kelly’s Thousand Pieces of Gold captures the riveting journey of young Lalu (Rosalind Chao), sold as if she were property by her father in the face of poverty and despondency, and placed on a ship bound the American West. With only a $2 million budget, which took six years to finance, self-taught director Nancy Kelly and her husband, editor Kenji Yamamoto produced and debuted Thousand Pieces of Gold, written by award-winning filmmaker Anne Makepeace based on Ruthanne Lum McCunn’s novel covering a true story, and developed by the Sundance Institute, at the San Francisco International Film Festival in 1990. It was a groundbreaking film, well ahead of its time, starring a Chinese woman (Rosalind Chao), a woman director (Nancy Kelly), and a Japanese-American producer (Kenji Yamamoto). The film instantly achieved critical acclaim from several journalists from the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, San Francisco Chronicle, and Chicago Sun Times. It was also selected as a Nominee for Critics Award at the 1990 Deauville Film Festival and won a Bronze Wrangler for Theatrical Motion Picture at Western Heritage Awards in 1992.
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, some of whom compared her talent to that of John Ford. Recently IndieWire invited Nancy to write an essay about sexism in the film industry. See the article here.