Tag Archives: Amy Tan: Unintended Memoir

Watch Variety Studio Interview: Amy Tan Reflects on Creative Collaboration for ‘Amy Tan: Unintended Memoir’

“Amy Tan: Unintended Memoir” is an Official Selection of the 2021 Sundance Film Festival and will premiere on February 2nd.  Producer Karen Pritzker and author and subject of the film Amy Tan discussed the chance circumstances that led to the film’s creation.

Author Amy Tan in a still from the documentary feature Amy Tan: Unintended Memoir. The film was made by James Redford, son of cinema legend Robert, who died from cancer before it was finished. Photo: Courtesy of KPJR Films

At Sundance Film Festival’s Variety studio presented by AT&T TV, Pritzker and Tan, author of the beloved “The Joy Luck Club” and lead singer in the literary rock garage band The Rock Bottom Remainders, remembered the doc’s late director and reflected on its unique cinematography.

Tan said the documentary , which will appear on “American Masters,” didn’t initially appeal to her. It was director James Redford, who died last October at the age of 58 from cancer, who had to convince her to agree to the film.

Tan takes a moment to herself in a scene from the documentary feature Amy Tan: Unintended Memoir. Photo: Courtesy of KPJR Films

“I was trying to wind down my public life and become a private person and not do things anymore, let alone a whole documentary so but it’s testament to how persuasive Jamie is without appearing to be persuasive,” Tan said. “It was a lot about trust … the more we talked I realized that this was an amazing opportunity already to talk to somebody about very deeply personal matters and I don’t think I could have done that with very many other people, certainly not other filmmakers.”

Amy Tan and her mother, Daisy, in a still from the documentary Amy Tan: Unintended Memoir. Photo: Courtesy of Jim McHugh

Amy Tan has firmly established herself as one of America’s most respected literary voices. Born to Chinese immigrant parents, it would be decades before the author of The Joy Luck Club would fully understand the inherited trauma rooted in the legacies of women who survived the Chinese tradition of concubinage.

A still from the documentary feature Amy Tan: Unintended Memoir. Photo: Courtesy of KPJR Films
Tan (left) and her mother in a still from the documentary Amy Tan: Unintended Memoir. Photo: Courtesy of Robert Foothorap

In 1989, Amy Tan’s first novel, The Joy Luck Club, was published to great commercial and critical success. With the blockbuster film adaption that followed as well as additional best-selling novels, librettos, short stories and memoirs, Ms. Tan has firmly established herself as one of the most prominent and respected American literary voices working today. Born to Chinese immigrant parents into 1950’s America, it would be decades before Ms. Tan would come to fully understand how her mother’s battle with suicidal tendencies was rooted in a legacy of suffering common to women who survived the ancient Chinese tradition of concubinage. This very legacy, however, has provided Ms. Tan an inexhaustible well of inspiration from which to work her literary magic. An interweaving of archival imagery, artful animation and live performance from Ms. Tan form the basis for this documentary that allows the audience to journey through Ms. Tan’s life and career in vivid, living colors.

Amy Tan and her mother. Photo: Courtesy of Amy Tan

This, the late James Redford’s final film, epitomizes his filmmaking talent, treading with great empathy into the life story of another and leaving telltale signs of a directorial vision both crystalline and warm. Perfectly implementing the generative listening Tan highlights so deliberately, Redford is responsive and engaged in this dimensional portrait of one of the most important writers in contemporary fiction. Produced by Karen Pritzker. 

Amy Tan (left) and her family. Photo: Courtesy of Amy Tan

See the film: 







Variety Studio presented by AT&T TV at Sundance Film Festival

Amy Tan: An Unintended Memoir Film Animation by Xaviera López


James Redford, director of Amy Tan: Unintended Memoir, an official selection of the Premieres section at the 2021 Sundance Film Festival. Courtesy of Sundance Institute.

James Redford 1962 – 2020

Always a voice for the vulnerable, James spent a lifetime leading with kindness and amplifying solutions that provide hope for generations to come.

James Redford was an award-winning director, writer, producer for film and television. In collaboration with Karen Pritzker, he formed KPJR FILMS to produce groundbreaking social issue documentaries that impact change in communities around the world, including The Big Picture: Rethinking Dyslexia, Paper Tigers, Resilience: The Biology of Stress and The Science of Hope, Playing For Keeps, and Amy Tan: Unintended Memoir.

He and his father, Robert Redford, co-founded The Redford Center, a non-profit media entity that engages people through inspiring stories that galvanize environmental action. Among many of its functions, the center’s documentary film projects include Watershed, Fighting Goliath, and The Art of Activism, as well as HBO films HAPPENING: A Clean Energy Revolution, Toxic Hot Seat, Mann v. Ford, and The Kindness of Strangers.

James received the 2016 Distinguished Service and Excellence in Film Award and 2016 Partnership with Children Anne Vanderbilt Award. His other awards include the 2014 Wild Care Environmental Award and in 2015, he was named a filmmaker envoy for USC/US State Department’s American Film Showcase as well as inducted into the leadership circle for the United Nation’s second annual Media for Social Impact Summit.

James was committed to storytelling and passionate about his filmmaking. Amy Tan: Unintended Memoir is his last completed film and shows him at the height of his powers.

Amy Tan: An Unintended Memoir Film Animation by Xaviera López


“I had suggested to Jamie that we interview his friend, Amy Tan, for our film Playing for Keeps about the need for adults to cultivate play and fun into their lives. I had seen Amy Tan perform as part of the Rock Bottom Remainders, a band comprised of best-selling authors, who I imagined each spent many days alone in their rooms staring at a blank computer screen. Amy’s performance as the lead singer was so much the opposite of the introspective and serious writer I had encountered through her beautiful books.

Jamie’s interview was brilliant. Not only did Amy say everything I hoped she would say about the need for play, but her discussions about how she activated so many parts of her imagination and creativity was a revelation. At that moment, Jamie and I realized that we had to make a film about Amy Tan. Jamie’s thoughtful, comfortable and curious style of interviewing unearthed so many layers of her character. As he was struggling with his own mortality and failing health, he directed this film that literally makes me cry each time I view it. We see Amy’s bravery and humanity in dealing with the many losses, traumas, and joys that she has faced, while still managing to emerge from her personal struggles with work that speaks to everyone and has been healing for her to produce.

I am so glad to be able to share this film with the world and am only sorry that Jamie can’t share the experience of seeing the world’s reaction.” – Karen Pritzker

The WNET Group’s American Masters Pictures Brings Documentaries on Rita Moreno, Amy Tan, Alvin Ailey and Jamaica Heolimeleikalani Osorio to 2021 Sundance Film Festival 

Lia Chang

Lia Chang is an actor, a multi-media content producer and co-founder of Bev’s Girl Films, making films that foster inclusion and diversity on both sides of the camera. Bev’s Girl Films’ debut short film, Hide and Seek was a top ten film in the Asian American Film Lab’s 2015 72 Hour Shootout Filmmaking Competition, and she received a Best Actress nomination. BGF collaborates with and produces multi-media content for artists, actors, designers, theatrical productions, composers,  musicians and corporations. Lia has appeared in the films Wolf, New Jack City, A Kiss Before Dying, King of New York, Big Trouble in Little China, The Last Dragon, Taxman. She stars in and served as Executive Producer for the short independent films Hide and Seek, Balancing Act, Rom-Com Gone Wrong, Belongingness and When the World was Young. She is also the Executive Producer for The Cactus, The Language Lesson, The Writer and Cream and 2 Shugahs.

All text, graphics, articles & photographs: © 2000-2021 Lia Chang Multimedia. All rights reserved. All materials contained on this site are protected by United States copyright law and may not be reproduced, distributed, transmitted, displayed, published or broadcast without the prior written permission of Lia Chang. You may not alter or remove any trademark, copyright or other notice from copies of the content. For permission, please contact Lia at liachangpr@gmail.com

The WNET Group’s American Masters Pictures Brings Documentaries on Rita Moreno, Amy Tan, Alvin Ailey and Jamaica Heolimeleikalani Osorio to 2021 Sundance Film Festival

Three American Masters Pictures documentaries will world premiere at the 2021 Sundance Film Festival, which runs January 28 – February 3: Rita Moreno: Just a Girl Who Decided to Go For ItAiley and Amy Tan: Unintended Memoir. These films will have their exclusive U.S. broadcast premieres on American Masters on PBS at a later date. Additionally, Jamaica Heolimeleikalani Osorio: This is the Way We Rise, now streaming as part of American Masters and Firelight Media’s documentary short film series In the Making, will screen in Sundance’s Short Film program.

“Premiering a film at the Sundance Film Festival represents the pinnacle of achievement in independent film,” said Michael Kantor, Executive Producer, American Masters Pictures. “Our mission is to empower filmmakers to tell compelling stories about the people who shape our culture: from emerging talents like Jamaica Heolimeleikalani Osorio to icons like Rita Moreno, Alvin Ailey and Amy Tan.”

“2021 marks five years since we launched American Masters Pictures to build on our commitment and connection to the independent film community,” said Stephen Segaller, Vice President of Programming at The WNET Group, whose THIRTEEN unit produces American Masters for PBS. “We are ecstatic that these films will premiere at Sundance and can’t wait to share them with our audiences on PBS.”

Directed by Mariem Pérez Riera, Rita Moreno: Just a Girl Who Decided to Go For It follows the star’s rich, decades-long career using vérité footage of Moreno today, archival footage of her roles and appearances, reenactments of her childhood, animation and new interviews. Despite becoming the first Latina actress to win an Oscar, studios continued to offer Moreno only roles as stereotypical ethnic minorities, ignoring her proven talent. Throughout her career, Moreno paved the way for Hispanic American performers by refusing to be pigeonholed into one-dimensional stereotypes. Film interviewees include George Chakiris, Hector Elizondo, Gloria Estefan, Tom Fontana, Morgan Freeman, Mitzi Gaynor, Whoopi Goldberg, Norman Lear, Eva Longoria, Justina Machado, Terrence McNally, Lin-Manuel Miranda, Karen Olivo and Tony Taccone. Rita Moreno: Just a Girl Who Decided to Go For It is produced by Brent Miller, p.g.a., and is a production of American Masters Pictures and Act III Productions in association with Artemis Rising and Maramara Films.

Directed by the late James Redford, Amy Tan: Unintended Memoir tells the story of the author whose first novel, “The Joy Luck Club,” was published to great commercial and critical success. With the blockbuster film adaption that followed as well as additional best-selling novels, librettos, short stories and memoirs, Tan firmly established herself as one of the most prominent and respected American literary voices working today. Archival imagery, artful animation and live performances from Tan create a vivid, colorful journey through Tan’s life and career. Amy Tan: Unintended Memoir is Redford’s last completed film and a testament to his artistry and dedication to the craft. Amy Tan: Unintended Memoir is produced by Cassandra Jabola and Karen Pritzker, and is a KPJR Films production.

A still from Ailey by Jamila Wignot, an official selection of the U.S. Documentary Competition at the 2021 Sundance Film Festival. Courtesy of Sundance Institute | photo by Jack Mitchell.

A visionary artist who found salvation through dance, Alvin Ailey confronted a world that refused to embrace him and was determined to build one that would. Directed by Jamila Wignot, Ailey is a feature-length portrait of the life and work of  this brilliant, enigmatic and tenacious man. Ailey’s commitment to searching for truth in movement resulted in pioneering and enduring choreography that centers on African American experiences. This resonant biography grants artful access to the extraordinary man who founded one of the world’s most renowned dance companies: the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater. The documentary is an immersive portrait told in Ailey’s own words through the creation of a new commission inspired by his life. Ailey is produced by Lauren DeFilippo, and is a production of Insignia Films in association with American Masters Pictures, ITVS, XTR, Impact Partners, and Black Public Media.

In This is the Way We Rise filmmaker Ciara Lacy documents Jamaica Heolimeleikalani Osorio, a Kanaka Maoli wahine poet, activist and academic, and her continued work towards justice for Hawaii’s native population. The short is part of the In the Making series, which is a production of Firelight Media in association with THIRTEEN’s American Masters for WNET.

About American Masters Pictures
Founded in 2016 by executive producer Michael Kantor, American Masters Pictures is WNET’s theatrical imprint for documentaries co-produced by American Masters, the award-winning biography series that celebrates our arts and culture. American Masters Pictures partners with filmmakers, distributors and sales agents on non-broadcast releases including film festivals, theatrical, online, DVD, VOD and OTT, with PBS as the exclusive U.S. broadcaster of all films as part of the American Masters series. Films include Miles Davis: Birth of the CoolN. Scott Momaday: Words from a BearToni Morrison: The Pieces I AmSammy Davis, Jr.: I’ve Gotta Be MeBombshell: The Hedy Lamarr StoryItzhak, Norman Lear: Just Another Version of YouMaya Angelou: And Still I Rise and Garry Winogrand: All Things are Photographable. Since 1986, American Masters has set the standard for documentary film profiles, accruing widespread critical acclaim: 28 Emmy Awards — including 10 for Outstanding Non-Fiction Series and five for Outstanding Non-Fiction Special — 14 Peabodys, an Oscar, three Grammys, two Producers Guild Awards and many other honors. The series is a production of THIRTEEN PRODUCTIONS LLC for WNET. American Masters Pictures will be represented by three films at the Sundance Film Festival in 2021: Rita Moreno: Just a Girl Who Decided to Go For ItAiley and Amy Tan: Unintended Memoir.

About WNET
WNET is America’s flagship PBS station: parent company of New York’s THIRTEEN and WLIW21 and operator of NJTV, the statewide public media network in New Jersey and its news division, NJ SPOTLIGHT NEWS. Through its new ALL ARTS multi-platform initiative, its broadcast channels, three cable services (THIRTEEN PBSKids, Create and World) and online streaming sites, WNET brings quality arts, education and public affairs programming to more than five million viewers each month. WNET produces and presents a wide range of acclaimed PBS series, including NatureGreat PerformancesAmerican MastersPBS NewsHour Weekend, and the nightly interview program Amanpour and Company. In addition, WNET produces numerous documentaries, children’s programs, and local news and cultural offerings, as well as multiplatform initiatives addressing poverty and climate. Through THIRTEEN Passport and WLIW Passport, station members can stream new and archival THIRTEEN, WLIW and PBS programming anytime, anywhere.