Women's World

: Documentary Feature
GENRE: Documentary
STATUS: Post-Production


Bringing to life the legacy of San Francisco Chinatown’s nightclub era, a group of senior Chinese American dancers hit the road, bridging once isolated Chinese-speaking worlds.


Following the trails of Esther Eng, an early Hollywood pioneer, the director Luka Yuanyuan Yang arrived in San Francisco and met a group of Asian American female dancers. Despite their differences, they found each other in dancing in their twilight years. The story gradually unfolds like a road trip film as the group tours around the States to Cuba, and China.


Cinematic Hybrid

As a photographer and director, Luka Yuanyuan Yang has developed a style of combining various materials such as moving images, photos and archives into visual storytelling, highlighting their disparity in textures in order to create multi-layered narratives.

The main source material of “Women’s World” are 300 hours of documentary footage shot on 4K digital cameras, where the director blended into the subject group as an insider, casting a sensory and intimate eye on the senior dancers, their moments in life, and the sisterhood grown out of a shared identity.

Interweaved with the main storyline are rare materials such as archival footage, film fragments and historical photographs depicting performing stages in Chinatowns, film sets and nightclubs, many of which have never been disclosed before. Home video tapes that have gathered dust for decades in the main character’s cabin also forms a considerable part of the narrative.

Besides the main body of the film, the director intends to make a few 16mm, black-and-white analog vignettes as a secondary storyline, where a re-enactment of Esther Eng’s making of the now-lost 1939 film “It’s a Women’s World” takes place. Based on the remaining continuity of Eng’s original script, these vignettes intend to conjure up the style of overseas Cantonese films in the 1940s and 1960s.

Music is another focal point of the film, used as a vehicle to illustrate the complex cultural background of early Chinese American communities, ranging from Frank Sinatra played in the nightclubs in 1940s to “Chinatown” the classical piece from the musical “Flower Drum Song”. As the group tours on, musical features of the key location seep in, from jazz in Havana, to ukulele in Hawaii and popular songs in Shanghai…… reminiscing about the lost time.

Stage Arts Tie-in

Weaving stage performance into the main body of the film, the director’s unique visual storytelling style celebrates the main characters’ second life on stage and their passion for dancing. In lucid and vibrant colors, these ladies walk on and off stage, stepping in and out of fiction. As their identities shift, the story also wavers along the border of reality and imagination.

From the rehearsal room to the nursing house in Hawaii, from the Chinatown in San Francisco to the burlesque show in Las Vegas, the group finally developed “Theater of Crossed Roads”, a spin-off live performance series of “Women’s World” project and started touring. In 2018, they performed with local Cantonese opera divas on an open-air stage in Havana, Cuba. In 2019, the Shanghai production is a combination of visual art installations and live performance. The camera documented the dancers, the backstage and the response of the audience, forming part of the feature film “Woman’s World”.


Yuanyuan Luka Yang - Director/Producer

Luka Yuanyuan Yang (b.1989, Beijing) is a visual artist and filmmaker. She does visual storytelling through film, photography, artist books and performance. Yang received awards internationally from organizations such as Art Power 100 (2019); Asian Cultural Council (2017); Huayu Youth Award(2016); Rencontres d’Arles(2015); Magenta Foundation(2013); Three Shadows Tierney Fellowship (2012) etc. In 2019, her first short film ‘Coby and Stephen are in Love' co-directed with Carlo Nasisse was screened at multiple international film festivals such as Camden International Film Festival and Atlanta Film Festival. Her first feature film Women’s World is currently in post-production phase. Filmography 2020 “The Lady from Shanghai” (documentary) , Director, Producer, Cinematographer 2019 “Coby and Stephen Are in Love” (documentary) , Co-Director, Producer

Lou Wang-Holborn - US Producer

After graduating from the Communication University of China, Lou WH moved to New York City and earned a Master’s Degree in International Affairs from The New School. She founded a production company in 2015, providing services to both local and Chinese media and clients. Lou has produced several documentary programs and shows. Her works focus on cross-cultural experience, youth culture and contemporaries. She is the producer of the “Generational Gravity” Ep 7 & 8 for Tencent, the US Production Coordinator of film "Lost in Russia," and the US producer of documentary series "The Power of Quality."


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