Casting Fu Manchu

Casting Fu Manchu

In response to the rise of COVID-related ‘Asian Hate’, 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.

 "...The home self-tape is an audition form that predates COVID-19, but there is something particularly charged in the vision Lee presents 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 work seemed as much about queering as it was about reclaiming Fu Manchu, with eight of the eleven readings of the traditionally male character performed by female and non-binary performers..."
- Tobi Poster-Su in THEATRE JOURNAL

Daniel York Loh, Elisabeth Gunawan, Eric Mok, Sabrina Pui Yee Chin, Luna Dai, Lilian Tsang, Joyce Veheary, Jacqui Ong, Kyoko Takenaka, Siu-see Hung, Hi Ching

Production Credits
Casting Director - Nicci Topping
Additional Cinematography - Dan Loops
Composer, Sound Design & Online Editor - Francis Morgan-Giles
Edited, Produced & Directed by Eelyn Lee

Running Time: 44-mins
Completion: 2020


ONLINE PREMIERE Hosted by Chinese Arts Now [UK] 1st Dec 2020
CAN FESTIVAL 2021 [UK] 15th Feb - 30th Apr [online]
ESTUARY 2021 [UK] 22nd May - 13th Jun [online]
ART BOMB 2021 [UK] 7th Aug - [In Person Premiere]
THURROCK FILM FESTIVAL 2021 [UK] 27th Aug [online]
HONG KONG FUTURE DIASPORA [UK] 21st Oct - 19 Nov 2022 

Read an interview with Eelyn Lee talking about Casting Fu Manchu in Theatre Fullstop.
Read the THEATRE JOURNAL Review by Tobi Poster-Su.

Watch the trailer below:


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