Hot Docs 2016
Chicago, Asian American fests in San Diego, Philadelphia, and San Francisco
The discovery of an Asian-American family’s home movies prompts a search for their origins.
Chancing upon a collection of home movies from the 1930s-’50s featuring people of color – an unusual find from an era where virtually all such recorded footage was of affluent white people – director Ali Kazimi was intrigued. As recounted here, he was able to identify the filmmaker as Silas Fung, a Chinese-American based in Chicago, and tracks down surviving family members to learn more, supplemented by unfortunately excessive narration by the filmmaker, as well as commentary by historians. While the latter provides some context about the experience of Asian Americans in pre- and postwar US society and occasional insights that the family members themselves perhaps didn’t articulate in interviews, the filmmaker’s narration is largely unnecessary and lessons the overall impact of the project’s most compelling element: Fung’s films, and how they visually construct a sense of an aspirational upwardly mobile and assimilationist identity for his family.