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Home-grown film serves up boro life

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When New Yorkers go to or order from a Chinese restaurant - and that, of course, is very frequently - most of them probably don't give much thought to the lives of the waiters, busboys, and kitchen workers who make it possible for patrons to choose from Column A and Column B.

But 32-year-old Tony Chan of Flushing, a Hong Kong native who came to New York with his family when he was 13, has given a lot of thought to it - enough to have directed an 85-minute comedy-drama, "Combination Platter," which will be aired at 10 p.m. Friday, June 29 and again at 12:30 a.m. Sunday, July 1 on Channel 13, part of the PBS station's series, "Reel NY," now in its sixth season.

"Combination Platter" focuses on Robert, an illegal immigrant from Hong Kong who is waiting tables in a Chinese restaurant in Flushing (filmed on site at Chan's parents' restaurant on Union Turnpike). He is constantly looking for ways to get the coveted but seemingly ever elusive green card, including even going out with an American girl in the hopes of having her agree to a sham marriage. He's always worried about federal agents arresting and deporting him, as happens often to his co-workers.

Even though Robert is from Hong Kong like Chad, and works in a Chinese restaurant as Chad has done, "it's not my story," he told Qguide. But it is based in large part on his experiences and people he's known.

Some of the borough scenes show that the film was made eight years ago - for example, there's a shot of the old Alexander's department store - but the hopes, fears, and pleasures are the same today.

Chad studied at the School of Visual Arts, and wrote, produced, and directed several films including a short, "To Crack an Egg," which was screened at the 1991 Asian American Film Festival.

"Combination Platter" won the Waldo Salt Screenwriting Award at Sundance in 1993, and was chosen to be shown at the Cannes Film Festival this year.

Reach Qguide Editor David Glenn by e-mail at glenn@timesledger.com or call 229-0300, Ext. 139.

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