Spikes to Spindles, 1976
By: Dr. Claus Mueller
The Canadian HotDocs festival honored the New York based Christine Choy (Chai Ming Huei) with the 2023 Outstanding Achievement Award for close to fifty years of issue oriented political film making, SPIKES TO SPINDLES directed by Choy in 1976 has retained its impact as a documentation of the Chinese American community and the struggles it faced over the last 200 years.
Choy presents interviews with Chinese Americans about their experiences, including business people, shop owners, and union organizers. She provides records of community meetings and confrontations with the police. The documentary tracks complex changes of the community, presents persuasive images of women working in the garment industry, depicts the decline of small family run shops and restaurants, as well as the gentrification of chinatown.
The documentary's carefully researched archival material demonstrates the long history of exploitation and discrimination Chinese experienced, from the importation of cheap labor in the 18th century to the successive legal abrogation of their rights to immigrate, reducing permission to enter the U.S. in 1943 to 298 persons per year. The Chinese were blamed for contributing to unemployment of white workers.
Now SPIKES TO SPINDLES is about 50 years old but its relevance has grown. This includes the need for organized opposition to discrimination of minority groups and, the importance of strengthening communities fighting politicians and large corporations to diminish gentrification. The victims must organize and act. Staying silent brings no benefits. As Christine Choy has been suggesting "We will not wait another 100 years to be heard"