Message from the Filmmaker

As we put the finishing touches on this documentary, we’re so proud and excited to see it launch into the world. It’s been an enlightening journey, several years in the making—a true labour of love for the entire production team. 

This film has been percolating in my mind since I discovered my father’s journal in an old suitcase more than 20 years ago. After my dad passed away in 2008, I had it translated and that’s when I knew I had found something truly meaningful. Here was this treasure trove of personal experience—one Chinese man’s inner reflections that revealed so much about a generation of men who emigrated from China to Jamaica. From both a cultural and educational standpoint, it struck me that this was a little-known piece of history well worth documenting. 

For me personally, it was such a pleasant surprise to discover this side of my dad that I didn’t even know existed. Like many children of immigrant parents, I wasn’t as fluent in the Hakka language as my parents. We talked about everyday things, but rarely discussed our hopes, dreams and philosophical ideas—we simply didn’t share the same vocabulary. That’s why my dad’s journal was such a revelation. Here he was embarking on this great immigrant adventure. What a joy to discover that he was so eloquent and full of hope as a young man!

It was a huge challenge for me as a filmmaker to bring his words to life onscreen: how do I make the words impactful while also visually conveying the historical depth and context behind the Chinese migration experience? I was blessed to work with a dedicated team of creators who shared this challenge with me.  

Mr. Basil Lee translated my father’s words into English with eloquence and sensitivity. Gavenesh Patel lent his immense creativity and motion graphics expertise to the journal sections. Richard Best captured the emotional ambiance with his lyrical layers of music while Hao Cheng dedicated countless hours to crafting the perfect edit. As for my co-producer and writing partner, Linda Dunlop, she was there every step of the way always perfecting the words and making sure we were editorially on the right path. There are many others who supported the film in a myriad of ways from translating to transcribing; I am deeply grateful. To our shared delight, everyone on our team had an immigration story to tell about their own families, which led to many illuminating conversations throughout the production process. I believe the documentary was much more elevated as a result. 

“If you spend enough time in a place, it becomes part of your soul.” These wise words, spoken in the film by my brother Jeff, resonate deeply for me. As a Chinese-Canadian who was born in Jamaica, I’m immensely proud of my Hakka roots. This film is about documenting that history, of course, but it’s also a reminder to anyone with immigrant roots to honour the courage and resilience of those who came before you.

– Jeanette Kong, Sept 2021