1. Home
  2. /
  3. Cooperations
  4. /
  5. Sinema Transtopia and DAAD Artists-in-Berlin
  6. /
  7. Shanghai Express x Delayed Rays of a Star

Shanghai Express x Delayed Rays of a Star

Shanghai Express x Delayed Rays of a Star
Josef von Sternberg, USA 1932, 80 Min., 35mm

English original version

During a chance encounter at a Berlin soirée in 1928, the photographer Alfred Eisenstaedt captured three very different women together in one frame: up-and-coming German actress, Marlene Dietrich; the world’s first Chinese-American star, Anna May Wong; director of propaganda art films would make her (in)famous, Leni Riefenstahl.

This photograph is the starting point of Amanda Lee Koe's debut novel, Delayed Rays of A Star. The trajectories of these women’s lives, from Weimar Berlin to Hollywood, and the different settings they inhabit are as richly textured as the roles they play; whether siren, victim, predator, or lover, each one is a carefully calibrated performance. 

By 1932, four years after the Eisenstaedt photograph was taken, Dietrich had catapulted to superstar status in America as the muse and lover of auteur Josef von Sternberg. Shanghai Express was a star vehicle for Dietrich, and yet Wong as co-star stole the spotlight. The film’s production and reception was richly researched and reimagined by Lee Koe for Delayed Rays of A Star, a book where the professional tensions between two brilliant actresses are examined, alongside the personal dynamics surrounding the rumors that Dietrich and Wong had been involved in a lesbian affair. 

 Whilst watching this pre-Code masterpiece through readings from Delayed Rays of A Star, the audience is invited to consider the intricacies and pressures of power and performance, both on set and behind the scenes. 

In cooperation with the DAAD Artists-in-Berlin Program

Amanda Lee Koe
, born in Singapore, has lived in New York for the past number of years. Her debut short story collection Ministry of Moral Panic was published in 2013 and won the Singapore Literature Prize. Her novel Delayed Rays of a Star came out in 2019. She is currently based in Berlin as a fellow of the DAAD Artists-in-Berlin Program

Lara Sielmann is a cultural journalist, literature critic and curator. As an editor and author, she works for Deutschlandfunk Kultur and is a regular presenter of readings and panel discussions on stage. At the Museum Charlottenburg-Wilmersdorf, she curates the reading series "Berliner Gegenwartsliteraturen". She lives in Berlin.