Thousand Pieces of Gold

Directed by Nancy Kelly



Set in a mining town in the 1880s, Thousand Pieces of Gold is based on the classic novel by Ruthanne Lum McCunn with a screenplay by award-winning filmmaker Anne Makepeace (Tribal Justice). Upon its release in 1990, the film won immediate acclaim for its portrayal of the real-life story of Lalu (Rosalind Chao), a young Chinese woman whose desperately poor parents sell her into slavery. She is trafficked to a nefarious saloonkeeper in Idaho's gold country. Eventually Charlie (Chris Cooper), a man of different ilk, wins her in a poker game and slowly gains her trust. Way ahead of its time, the film resonates even more powerfully today in the era of #MeToo. Nancy Kelly became a victim of prejudice against women directors within the American film industry and was never offered another movie to direct in spite of extraordinary reviews from critics, some of whom compared her talent to that of John Ford.

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"Rosalind Chao's performance is a wonder. Angry and romantic, Gold tells a powerful, poignant tale."
– Roger Ebert, Chicago Sun-Times
"A cross between a Western period piece and a romantic drama and features two incredible performances between Chao and Cooper. It practically swept me off my feet."
– Monica Castillo, NPR Pop Culture Happy Hour Podcast
"A genuine triumph. This is classic Western filmmaking: the lucid lyricism of a John Ford, a Budd Boetticher, a George Stevens. But, since Kelly is dealing with different kinds of conflicts, the film always seems to be opening up a new world."
– Michael Wilmington, Los Angeles Times 
"A small gem of U.S. independent filmmaking that’s well worth rediscovering."
– Dennis Harvey, 48 Hills
"Excellent. Kelly’s direction and Anne Makepeace’s script gurgle with frustration at the political and social realities. Cooper is nothing short of galvanizing."
– Michael Snydel, The Spool
"Even in moments of terrible anguish, Rosalind Chao projects the character's steely will."
– Stephen Holden, The New York Times 
Rosalind Chao
Chris Cooper
Will Oldham
Michael Paul Chan
Dennis Dun
Jimmie F. Skaggs

Directed by Nancy Kelly
Written by Anne Makepeace
Based on the novel by Ruthanne Lum McCunn
Produced by Kenji Yamamoto and Nancy Kelly