AFI Movie Club: THE JOY LUCK CLUB – American Film Institute

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AFI Movie Club: THE JOY LUCK CLUB

AFI alum and AFI Conservatory faculty Heidi Levitt (Class of 1987) worked as a Casting Director on THE JOY LUCK CLUB, establishing a close collaboration with director Wayne Wang, whom she would later work with on projects including SMOKE and BLUE IN THE FACE. 

In this AFI Archive exclusive video, director Wayne Wang talks about THE JOY LUCK CLUB.

Movie Trivia about THE JOY LUCK CLUB

DID YOU KNOW? 

Author Amy Tan was impressed by Wayne Wang’s hesitance about directing the project, as he admitted that it scared him. Tan stated that others who had approached her were incredibly eager but lacked a vision for adapting her novel. 

DID YOU KNOW? 

Author Amy Tan co-wrote the screenplay for THE JOY LUCK CLUB with Ron Bass. 

DID YOU KNOW? 

Co-writer Ron Bass was credited with two major changes to Tan’s original story – the addition of June’s farewell party that serves as a framing device for the different characters’ narratives and the voice-over narration. 

DID YOU KNOW? 

According to files at the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences library, there were 60 speaking parts in THE JOY LUCK CLUB, and 50 of those were for women. 

DID YOU KNOW? 

THE JOY LUCK CLUB marked the first time that a major studio had financed a film in which the majority of the cast, the director, the film editor, the costume designer and two of the producers were Asian. 

DID YOU KNOW? 

In order to portray authentic Chinese American households, production designer Donald Graham visited the homes of Chinese families in San Francisco to more fully understand the mixture of American and Chinese cultures.  

DID YOU KNOW? 

San Francisco locations for the film included the streets of Chinatown, Golden Gate Park and the historic Fioli Estate, a mansion built between 1915 and 1917 that doubled for a mansion in China. The production also spent the last six weeks of filming in China. 

DID YOU KNOW? 

Executive producer Janet Yang recalled that director Wayne Wang became upset in a marketing meeting when the studio presented him with options for film posters. The designs avoided showing the faces of the Asian characters and presented only the actresses’ backs. 

DID YOU KNOW? 

The film set a record for the Walt Disney Company as the strongest Wednesday opening for a limited-release live-action film in the studio’s history at the time. 

Learn more at the AFI Catalog

The movie doesn’t end at the credits: Family-friendly Discussion Questions

Join the conversation on Twitter and Instagram now using #AFIMovieClub. Or post your responses in the comment section below.

-In what way is the promise of the American dream presented in THE JOY LUCK CLUB and how does it turn out to be a fallacy? 

-How is THE JOY LUCK CLUB both culturally specific and universal as a story? 

-How does the movie represent generational trauma between mothers and daughters? 

-In what way is marriage depicted throughout the film, both arranged and relationships of one’s own volition? 

-How does the modern minority myth play into Waverly’s storyline as a chess prodigy? How does she ultimately break free from this? 

-Why does June feel insecure around her mother and the daughters of her mother’s best friends? 

-How do these young first-generation Americans struggle with reconciling their Chinese and American heritage? 

-Why is the movie (and the book) called THE JOY LUCK CLUB? Do you have a friend circle as close as Suyuan’s? What binds these women and makes them inseparable? 

-How does the film use flashbacks effectively to tell each of the four friend’s stories in THE JOY LUCK CLUB? Why don’t the daughters know the true stories of their mother’s pasts and what is the outcome of this disconnect? 

-THE JOY LUCK CLUB came out in 1993 while CRAZY RICH ASIANS came out in 2018. Why do you think it took 25 years before another major Hollywood studio would back a film centered around the lives of Asian Americans? 

-How would you rate THE JOY LUCK CLUB? 

 

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AFI has created a global, virtual gathering of those who love the movies. Each day’s film is accompanied by fun facts, family-friendly discussion points and material from the AFI Archive to enrich your viewing experience.

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