American Masters Presents James Redford’s Final Documentary, Amy Tan: Unintended Memoir, Premiering May 3 on PBS for Asian Pacific American Heritage Month
Features new interviews with Amy Tan, Kevin Kwan, Isabel Allende, Lisa Lu, Rosalind Chao, Tamlyn Tomita, Kieu Chinh, Dave Barry and Ronald Bass
Writer Amy Tan’s hit debut novel, “The Joy Luck Club” (1989), catapulted her to commercial and critical success, spending over 40 weeks on The New York Times Best Seller list. With the 1993 blockbuster film adaption that followed, which was selected for the National Film Registry in 2020, as well as additional bestselling novels, librettos, short stories and memoirs, Tan firmly established herself as one of the most prominent and respected literary voices working today. American Masters—Amy Tan: Unintended Memoir is an intimate portrait of the groundbreaking author that interweaves archival imagery, including home movies and personal photographs, animation and original interviews to tell the inspiring story of Tan’s life and career. The documentary world premieres at the 2021 Sundance Film Festival in February, and premieres nationwide Monday, May 3 at 9 p.m. on PBS (check local listings), pbs.org/amytan and the PBS Video app in honor of Asian Pacific American Heritage Month.
The last completed film from director James Redford (1962-2020), American Masters—Amy Tan: Unintended Memoir features new interviews with Tan; fellow writers Kevin Kwan, Isabel Allende, Dave Barry and Ronald Bass; actors from “The Joy Luck Club” including Lisa Lu, Rosalind Chao, Tamlyn Tomita and Kieu Chinh; friends and family. Tan opens up to Redford with remarkable frankness about traumas she’s faced in her life and how her writing has helped her heal. The film traces her meteoric rise from the point when she picked up fiction writing as a mental break from her heavy freelance business writing schedule and was offered three book deals after completing only three short stories.
Born to Chinese immigrant parents in Oakland, California in 1952, it would be decades before 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. However, this legacy provides Tan an inexhaustible well of creative inspiration, and her work has made her a global icon for Asian Americans. Tan’s other bestselling novels include “The Kitchen God’s Wife,” “The Hundred Secret Senses,” “The Bonesetter’s Daughter,” “Saving Fish from Drowning” and “The Valley of Amazement,” and her work has been translated into 35 languages. Featuring footage of her performing as the lead singer of the Rock Bottom Remainders, a band comprised of bestselling authors including Stephen King, Scott Turow and Barry, as well as a look at her recent explorations in nature journal sketching, the film offers an inside look at a brave artist whose humanity infuses all of her work.
Now in its 35th season on PBS, American Masters illuminates the lives and creative journeys of our nation’s most enduring artistic giants—those who have left an indelible impression on our cultural landscape. Setting the standard for documentary film profiles, the series has earned widespread critical acclaim and 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. To further explore the lives and works of more than 250 masters past and present, the American Masters website offers streaming video of select films, outtakes, filmmaker interviews, the American Masters Podcast, educational resources and more. The series is a production of THIRTEEN PRODUCTIONS LLC for WNET.
American Masters—Amy Tan: Unintended Memoir is a production of KJPR Films in association with American Masters Pictures. Director: James Redford. Produced by Karen Pritzker. Producer: Cassandra Jabola. Executive Producer: Michael Kantor.
Support for American Masters is provided by AARP, the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, Cheryl & Philip Milstein Family, Judith & Burton Resnick, Seton Melvin Charitable Trust, The Blanche & Irving Laurie Foundation, The Ambrose Monell Foundation, Vital Projects Fund, Lillian Goldman Programming Endowment, Philip & Janice Levin Foundation, Ellen & James S. Marcus, The André & Elizabeth Kertész Foundation and public television viewers.
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