Golden Gate

Director: John Madden
Screenwriters: David Henry Hwang

Institute History

  • 1994 Sundance Film Festival


Golden Gate is a film of epic scale yet romantic simplicity It is about a time and a place that mainstream America rarely sees, but it is universal in its sensibilities and truths.

Tony Award-winning playwright David Henry Hwang tells the tale of the persecution of Chinese-Americans at the height of the McCarthy-era communist witch-hunt. Matt Dillon plays FBI agent Kevin Walker, fresh out of law school and full of his newfound status as one of the select. His bosses are out to protect America from communist subversion, and it doesn't really matter whether the threat is real or not. Walker is assigned to investigate the activities of a laundry worker and community organizer, Chen Jung Song, ostensibly with political ties to "Red" China. When the evidence to prosecute Chen proves insufficient, Walker must make a crucial decision. Does he believe in the law or in justice? Faced with career-threatening pressure, he succumbs and manufactures the conspiracy details necessary to send Chen to prison for a decade, Time passes and Chen gets out of prison. However, he's a broken man and when faced With further harassment, this time by a decidedly unenthusiastic Walker, he commits suicide, cursing Walker eternally.
Chen's daughter, Marilyn (Joan Chen). is in law school, and Walker, attempting to assuage his guilt, convinces her that he knew her father and was in fact his legal defender, When a romance ensues, its tragic and explosive end is inevitable when the real truth is revealed, but this is only the first step in Walker's efforts to make amends.

Melodramatic, yet powerful in its indictment of our history, Golden Gate is beautifully stylized and uses genre conventions that allow its message to be felt as much as heard, Director Madden and author Hwang are especially attentive to tone and atmosphere, and both Dillon and Chen give memorable performances. Mythic and at the same time specifically illustrative of the mores of its era, Golden Gate is perhaps particularly relevant today, in a world which presumes progress in race relations and fighting ideological paranoia, but has a short memory.

Wednesday Jan 26 7:00 pm
Egyptian Theatre

Thursday Jan 27 9:30 am
Park City Library Center


— Geoffrey Gilmore

Screening Details


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