Inside the Balancing Acts of Chinese Acrobat Man Tan Fong

Posted by Lia Chang

Balancing Acts Tells the Remarkable Story of Chinese Acrobat Man Tan Fong

Balancing Acts . a new documentary by director Donna Schatz, chronicles the astonishing life of Man Tan Fong who left his home in 1929 as a teenager in China to train in Hong Kong as an acrobat. After a year of grueling training, he began performing with a Chinese acrobat troupe throughout Europe and eventually formed his own group, the Oriental Brothers. While performing in Copenhagen, Fong met Magda Schweitzer, a Hungarian Orthodox Jewish acrobat, who was performing on the same bill. They fell in love and were married at the start of World War II.

Through archival footage, photos, and interviews, Balancing Acts showcases Man Tan Fongs career and the story of how his wife and two sons were able to survive Nazi-occupied Hungary during WWII. His Chinese citizenship protected them because it gave Magda a Chinese passport, which hid her Jewish identity. Balancing Acts by director Donna Schatz is a story about the sacrifice, love, and perseverance of Man Tan Fong, now in his 90s, and Magda Schweizter, who passed away in 2003.

Balancing Acts premieres on PBS this May as part of the Center for Asian American Media's lineup of films for Asian Pacific American Heritage Month. (Check local listings.)

The Center for Asian American Media (formerly known as the National Asian American Telecommunications Association) has a new director. A fond farewell to Eddie Wong and a hearty welcome to Stephen Gong. Gong, 53, joins the Center after working for 18 years at the University of California, Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive, most recently as the Deputy Director. He has a degree in English from UC Berkeley and attended graduate school in cinema studies at the University of Southern California. www.asianamericanmedia.org.