Buried deep in a closet in an old suitcase, Jeanette Kong discovered an artifact that would unlock a portal to her past—a burgundy notebook filled with handwritten Chinese characters. When she asked her father about it, he told her it was none of her business. It wasn’t until after his death when she had the book translated that she discovered it was his private journal from when he travelled from Guangdong, China to Kingston, Jamaica in 1949.
Why would he travel so far to start a new life?
Documentarian Jeanette Kong not only tells the personal story of her family’s migration experience, which eventually takes them to Canada but also spotlights the history and culture of the Hakka people. Told using archival footage and pictures, as well as footage captured from more recent family visits, A Brief History of My Father’s Time At Sea is a rumination on Jeanette's own identity, while “typically Canadian” is also rooted in her Jamaican-Chinese heritage. By using her father’s own words to tell part of that story, we come to understand that who we are as individuals and Canadians runs generations deep.
This is Jeanette Kong’s return to Reelworld. Her film Finding Samuel Lowe was the festival’s opening night gala in 2015 and also won the Audience Choice Award. She is one of few directors who captures the history and culture of the Hakka people in Jamaica. Of this most recent project, she observed that in making this film she came to “appreciate the enormous determination and courage it takes to reinvent oneself in a new place. It is truly a leap of faith.”
In Person Screening at Paradise Cinemas, 1006 Bloor St W, Toronto, ON M6H 1M2. Sunday, October 24 at 4:30PM + 30 Minute Q&A
As a Jamaican-born, Chinese-Canadian documentarian, Jeanette has produced and directed several acclaimed films about the Hakka in Jamaica. Her feature Finding Samuel Lowe: From Harlem to China premiered at the opening night gala at the 2015 Reelworld Film Festival where it won the ReelChoice Audience Awards in Toronto and Markham.
CAST & CREDITS
Linda Dunlop, Jeanette Kong
Aline Le, Bianca Harris and Christopher Yip
Abraham Chin, Patrick Lee, Jeffery Kong and Brigitte Shim