Documentary TRYUS Explores One Man’s Impact on American Culture

Published on
September 16, 2016

Tyrus Union College presents TYRUS with director and producer Pamela Tom as part of the South Arts Southern Circuit Tour of Independent Filmmakers at Union’s Little Rector Theatre on Thursday, September 22 at 7 pm. Following a screening of the film, the filmmaker will engage the audience in a discussion about the film and her work. The event is free and open to the public, but due to limited seating reservations are encouraged by emailing uarts@unionky.edu.

TYRUS is a feature-length documentary film that tells the unlikely story of 105-year old Chinese-American artist Tyrus Wong, and how he overcame poverty and racism to become a celebrated modernist painter, innovative kite designer, Hollywood sketch artist for films such as Rebel Without a Cause and How the West Was Won, and 'Disney Legend' for his groundbreaking work on the classic animated film, Bambi.

Tom is a writer, director and producer whose work includes documentary and narrative film and television. She has taught documentary filmmaking at ULCA and Loyola Marymount University and is the recipient of multiple awards including the Walt Disney Writing Fellowship and the Dorothy Arzner Directors Award for outstanding female filmmakers.

Tom first learned about Tyrus Wong while watching the “making of” documentary on Bambi in 1997. “I was intrigued by the idea of a Chinese American artist working at Disney in the 1930s,” wondered Tom. “How was this possible? Werenʼt most Chinese immigrants toiling away as laundrymen, houseboys, or waiters? Wasnʼt Walt Disney an alleged racist?”

Over the course of nearly twenty years, Tom learned that Tyrus’ legendary work on Disney films barely scratched the surface of this groundbreaking and immensely talented artist. “Tyrus was one of the very first Chinese Americans to make a living in the world of art and film, which was especially notable in an era when minorities were virtually shut out of Hollywood,” continued Tom.

The Southern Circuit Tour of Independent Filmmakers is a program of South Arts. Southern Circuit screenings are funded in part by a grant from South Arts in partnership with the National Endowment for the Arts. South Arts, founded in 1975, is a nonprofit regional arts organization building on the South's unique heritage and enhancing the public value of the arts. Their work responds to the arts environment and cultural trends with a regional perspective, through an annual portfolio of activities designed to address the role of the arts in impacting the issues important to our region, and linking the South with the nation and the world through the arts.

The Southern Circuit Film Tour will continue at Union College during the fall semester with feature films on October 13 and November 10. All films are presented free of charge at Union College through a partnership with South Arts and a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts.

For more information, or to reserve your seat, please email '; // -->