Global Voices: International House to Host Chinese-Canadian Film Festival

By ELISA BAYOUMI

Global Voices Metcalf Intern

 

On Saturday, April 7, International House at the University of Chicago and the Consulate General of Canada in Chicago will present Asian Pop-Up Cinema’s Kaleidoscope of Canadian-Chinese Film. This film festival will screen two Canadian-Chinese documentaries, The Magical Life of Long Tack Sam and China Heavyweight, as well as a Canadian-Chinese dramatic film, Old Stone. The event will feature a Q&A session with Shelly Kraicer, a Canadian writer, critic, and film curator with a focus on Chinese cinema, and Anne-Marie Fleming, the writer and director of The Magical Life of Long Tack Sam.

Though the festival’s scope seems rather niche, Sophia Wong Boccio, founder and executive director of Asian Pop-Up Cinema, cites the large number of Asian immigrants to Canada as one of her reasons for picking this theme. Boccio herself mentions her personal ties to Canada, where her family has lived for the past 22 years. The event hopes to show the public a “a mini — very mini-mini-mini scope — of Canadian-Chinese film”, Boccio notes. The film festival is presented in conjunction with the Canadian Consulate, which aims to support and promote the genre of Canadian-Chinese film.

One of the features will be The Magical Life of Long Tack Sam, a documentary by Anne-Marie Fleming about her great-grandfather, Long Tack Sam, one of the first Chinese live acrobats and magicians. The story recounts Long Tack Sam’s experience of overcoming isolation, poverty, cultural and linguistic barriers, extreme racism, and world wars to become one of the most successful vaudeville acts of his time. The first-person road-documentary, a style which focuses on a journey, highlights his experience as an early Chinese immigrant to America and his adjustment to his new surroundings, Boccio explains.

Boccio also selected China Heavyweight for the event, a documentary written and directed by Yung Chang. The film tells the story of Qi Mo-Xiang, a former heavyweight boxer who recruits students from China’s countryside Sichuan province to train into the next Olympic boxing stars. Boccio hopes that this film will reveal a story “almost unknown to the rest of the world”— the existence of an active boxing sport in China. The film tackles the characters’ adolescent tribulations, as well as their training, as a social commentary on China’s changing economic landscape.

The third film shown at the Kaleidoscope of Canadian-Chinese Film event will be Old Stone, Johnny Ma’s debut feature. It tells the fictional story of a Chinese taxi driver, Lao Shi, who gets tangled up in an insurance nightmare when a drunk passenger causes him to hit a motorcyclist. Characterized as a noir film that features the seedy, cynical side of life, Old Stone highlights a “bureaucratic situation in China that is still very current”, Boccio adds, rounding out the selection of films.

These stories are not necessarily the typical Chinese movies, following Asian Pop-Up Cinema’s mission of demonstrating a different side to Chinese film. Boccio notes that most Asian-American films have “stories of coming to a new country and adjusting to it”, but don’t discuss “their home country or the story of what actually happened over there”. She sees that Asian films which “penetrate into American markets are the action, martial arts movies” rather than the stories that she, growing up around the film industry in Hong Kong, was used to seeing. Asian Pop-Up Cinema attempts to break this trend by featuring films with strong references to their Chinese cultural origins that show an interesting, new side of the genre. Boccio proudly references The Magical Life of Long Tack Sam’s depiction of early immigrant experiences, China Heavyweight’s depiction of boxing and the Chinese countryside, and Old Stone’s gritty, Kafkaesque nightmare. She hopes that these films’ stories provide audience members with an experience that “is relevant, is universal, and touches everybody’s heart”.

The Q&A session following the screenings will allow audience members to pose questions to Shelly Kraicer, a Canadian film programer specializing in Chinese cinema, and Anne-Marie Fleming, whose documentary The Magical Life of Long Tack Sam will be shown at the event. Boccio hopes to give attendees the “opportunity to talk about the making of the film, or the background of the film” to develop their experience of this genre.

The Kaleidoscope of Canadian-Chinese Film will take place on Saturday, April 7, from 1 p.m. to 8 p.m. in the International House Assembly Hall (1414 E. 59th St.). This event is free and open to the public. The event is presented by the Global Voices Performing Arts and Lecture Program, The Consulate General of Canada in Chicago, and Asian Pop-Up Cinema. For more information about other Global Voices Events and co-sponsorship opportunities, or for persons with disabilities who may require assistance, please contact Mary Beth DeStefano at 773-753-2274 or mdestefa@uchicago.edu.