In response to the rise of COVID-related Asian Hate towards ‘Chinese looking’ people, eleven actors of East and Southeast Asian heritage subvert the racist character of Dr Fu Manchu.
Despite being in the public eye for over 90 years, Dr Fu Manchu, the popular Chinese villain has only ever been played on screen by white men. In her film, Lee subverts the practice of ‘yellow face’ by inviting actors of East and Southeast Asian heritage to audition for the role of Fu Manchu. Over 50 actors, male, female and non-binary, sent her self shot audition tapes with their re-appropriated versions of the character, a selection of which form the basis of the film.
In 1912, when Sax Rohmer dreamt up his fictional Dr Fu Manchu, the evil Chinese doctor set on world domination, Yellow Peril was rife. Often painted as a faceless existential threat to the western world, East Asians were seen as a force that needed to be suppressed. Over 100 years later, COVID-related racist attacks towards East and Southeast Asians have demonstrated that Yellow Peril is still alive today.
Commissioned by Chinese Arts Now
“.. With a spike in attacks towards east and S.E. Asian people, and Donald Trump calling COVID-19 the ‘Chinese Virus’, Casting Fu Manchu will speak to that racism. It’s a racism that’s entrenched – just ask any Chinese actor working in the ‘west’ how many roles they don’t get offered. So, I’m looking forward to working with actors of east and S.E. Asian heritage – young, old, male, female or non-binary – to reinvent the character of Fu Manchu..” – Eelyn Lee
Eelyn Lee is an award-winning artist and filmmaker who has exhibited at Barbican, Tate Modern, National Portrait Gallery, Whitechapel Gallery, Palais de Tokyo, Haus der Kulturen der Welt and at international film festivals. Eelyn’s practice combines collective research, devised theatre and filmmaking to create frameworks, for ensembles of collaborators to work together. In 2016 she co-founded Social Art Network, an artist-led network that builds agency in the field of art and social practice. Eelyn is currently developing her first narrative feature film exploring Empire and race through the western and horror genres.
“…The home self-tape is an audition form that predates COVID-19, but there was something particularly charged in the vision Lee presented of isolated performers working from home to present a character rooted in the narratives of Yellow Peril that the COVID-19 pandemic has brought bubbling to the surface. The repetition and refiguring of these scenes brought to mind the shifting but irrepressible nature of both the character and anti-Asian prejudice itself…”
Tobi Poster-Su’s review of Casting Fu Manchu in THEATRE JOURNAL, Volume 73, Issue 2, June 2021, pages 247-249
Social Media Handles
T: @Eelyn1 / IG: @eelyn.lee.film
Casting Director: Nicci Topping
T: @niccitopping / IG: nicci_topping
Daniel York Loh: T:: @danielfyork / IG: danielyorkloh
Elisabeth Gunawan: IG: elisabettygun
Joyce Veheary: T: @JoyceVeheary / IG: mealsandboon
Siu-See Hung: T: @SiuseeHung / IG: siuseehungemily
Erik Mok: T: @EricMok97 / IG: mokman97
Jacqui Ong: T: @JacquiBardelang / IG: sigimoonlight
Sabrina Pui Yee Chin: T: @sabpuiyee / IG: sabpuiyee
Luna Dai: T: @LunaDaiYue
Lilian Tsang: T: @lilian_tsang / IG: lilian_tsang
Kyoko Takenaka: IG: jinjabrew
Hi Ching: —