Written and directed by Evan Jackson Leong, ‘Snakehead’ is a crime-drama film. It follows Sister Tse (Shuya Chang), a young mother who comes to Chinatown, New York City, as an undocumented immigrant after learning her daughter currently resides in the Big Apple with her adoptive parents. However, she becomes involved with the human-trafficking organization that brought her to the city.
To pay the $50,000 she owes the organization, she starts working for them. Due to her tenacity and pragmatism, she quickly rises through the ranks to become an important part of the entire operation. ‘Snakehead’ depicts a dark and disturbing version of Chinatown, where it is primarily set. If you are wondering whether the film was shot on location in Chinatown or elsewhere, we got you covered.
Snakehead Filming Locations
Leong and the rest of the crew and cast filmed ‘Snakehead’ predominantly in and around New York City, including the neighborhood of Chinatown. After spending several years researching for the project, Leong started filming in 2016. A cut of the movie was ready in 2017. However, this is the first narrative project of Leong, who has mostly directed documentaries before this, so he had little idea about the work he still had to do in terms of storytelling. He polished the movie for the next few years before releasing it. Let’s look at specific locations in detail.
New York City, New York.
Most of the New York scenes in ‘Snakehead’ were shot in Chinatown, a neighborhood in the Manhattan borough of the city. It shares borders with the Lower East Side in the east, Civic Center in the south, Tribeca in the west, and Little Italy in the north. It has the distinction of being one of the oldest Chinese ethnic enclaves in the world as well as having the highest density of Chinese people in the Western Hemisphere. Established by the Chinese people themselves, the neighborhood continues to be an important hub for Chinese culture.
Leong infuses life to Chinatown in ‘Snakehead,’ showcasing all its intricate details — both good and bad. On the one hand, he shows how Chinatown is a composite of numerous success stories. On the other hand, he doesn’t shy away from depicting how the proverbial American Dream shatters in the seedy underbelly of Chinatown. Leong portrays the neighborhood as an ecosystem where everything is connected.
Chinatown is a popular filmmaking destination. As it is part of New York City, state-of-the-art infrastructure and highly competent workforce are readily available for productions there. Projects like ‘Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind,’ ‘The Devil’s Advocate,’ and ‘Eraser’ were also filmed in the neighborhood.
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