Dragonmasters: A Cultural Odyssey (International)

Dragonmasters is the untold story of the Chinese dragon in America, from its roots in China and the triumph of the arts and culture over violence and hatred.

  • Jun Ren
  • Rik Zak
  • Rik Zak
  • A. W. Barber
  • Chuck Schroeder
  • Ron Ponech
  • Chuck Schroeder
  • Walter Van
    Key Cast
  • David Lei
    Key Cast
  • Dr. A. W. Barber
    Key Cast
  • Antonio Rodreguez
    Key Cast
  • Richard V. Lim
    Key Cast
  • Ken Leong
    Key Cast
  • Chen Dongfan
    Key Cast
  • Vincent McMaster
    Key Cast
  • Anthony Bonilla
    Key Cast
  • Heather Young
    Key Cast
  • Anthony Bonilla
    Key Cast
  • Louise Rosenberg
    Key Cast
  • Reinaldo Perez
    Key Cast
  • Wai Eng
    Key Cast
  • Dr. Sun F. Pei
    Key Cast
  • Danny Eng
    Key Cast
  • Zhang Shilin
    Key Cast
  • Project Type:
  • Genres:
    Authored documentary, Expository, Interview
  • Runtime:
    1 hour 7 minutes 11 seconds
  • Completion Date:
    March 31, 2019
  • Country of Origin:
  • Country of Filming:
    Canada, China, United States
  • Language:
    Chinese, English
  • Shooting Format:
  • Aspect Ratio:
  • Film Color:
  • First-time Filmmaker:
  • Student Project:
Distribution Information
  • Sensetive In4mation Inc.
    Country: Canada
    Rights: All Rights, Internet, Video on Demand, Pay Per View, Hotel, Airline, Video / Disc, Free TV, Paid TV, Console / Handheld Device
  • One World Media
    Country: China
    Rights: All Rights
  • Sensetive Information Inc.
    Country: United States
    Rights: Internet, Video on Demand, Pay Per View, Hotel, Airline, Ship, Video / Disc, Free TV, Paid TV, Console / Handheld Device
Director Biography - Jun Ren, Rik Zak

Rik Zak - director
Rik Zak is an award-winning creative director and Professor Emeritus at the Alberta University of the Arts (AUArts). Currently, he is a Creative Director at Schroeder Inc., a New York content and brand development agency with clients worldwide. Rik has practiced and researched Chinese dragon dancing in New York and its related traditions with Shifu Chia Meng Woo (胡介民師傅, 1913 -2010) for over 45 years.  Shifu Woo was a Shaolin Master teacher who had studied and practiced traditional dragon dancing in Shanghai during the 1920s and 1930s then taught for 40 years in New York City. Rik has taught and coached a dragon team in Calgary and in New York for over three decades.

Jun Ren - director
Jun is an NYC-Shanghai creative director and film director. He has an undergraduate degree in design and a master's degree in film directing from the School of Visual Arts in New York. His mission is to build a bridge between progressive East and the West media creatives and connect next-gen audiences of all culture

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Director Statement

DRAGONMASTERS: A CULTURAL ODYSSEY is the untold story of the Chinese Dragon in America.

Theme: the arts vs violence and hatred.

I moved to New York in 1976 and lived in midtown Manhattan. My interest in kung-fu led me to Master Chai Meng Woo, an elderly retired man living in Williamsburg, which at the time was a gang-infested ghetto. For over three decades, I went there to train and practice under him both Chinese martial arts and Dragon Dancing. The neighborhood, composed mainly of Hispanic and African-Americans, but also increasingly Chinese because of its proximity to New York's Chinatown, was experiencing rising racial tensions in addition to being ravaged by drug dealing. A gang controlled almost every block, making it one of the most violent ghetto neighborhoods in America.

Chai Meng Woo taught his students from his subsidized apartment in the heart of gang territory. It was remarkable that, in spite of racial tensions, his team was made up of Chinese, Hispanic, and African American youth. They came to learn how to fight. However, they were also required to learn Dragon Dancing. The questions about this were always the same. What is the Dragon? What are we going to learn from Dragon Dancing? What does Dragon Dancing have to do with fighting? Master Woo never really told us directly. It’s something we learned by being there,"the art of fighting without fighting".

It amazed me to see that an old man, an immigrant without financial resources, armed only with his culture, could be an agent of positive transformation in a community so profoundly buried in hostility and urban decay.

The Dragon and its dance are familiar and recognizable, even to non-Chinese. The image of the Dragon has stubbornly persisted through thousands of years, representing China and the Chinese in popular culture worldwide, often with contradictory meanings. Many aspects of cultural traditions and skills are not distinguishable from the people who practice them. Like music, rites, and dance, Dragon Dance is not a physical entity but embodies the people who have that ethos and skills. As filmmakers, our initial objective in making this film was to document Dragon Dancing in Brooklyn and the transformative power this Chinese cultural tradition had on the lives of at-risk young people living in a New York ghetto.

Our research led us to Marysville, California, where we discovered the very first Chinese Dragon arrived in the United States in the late 1800s. We were curious, and our odyssey took us there as well. To our amazement, we found that this Dragon Dance tradition continues to be practiced there as part of the longest continually held parade in California.

As filmmakers, our purpose is to document and celebrate the cultural contributions of the Chinese Dragon in America and how it won hearts with the “art of fighting without fighting.”

We hope our film will inspire others to see their culture’s potential as a way to address hostility.