RANDOM ACTS OF LEGACY (Ali Kazimi, Canada). 77 minutes. Rating: NNNNN
Moving images from the early 20th century showing people of colour in the U.S. and Canada are rare. So when Ali Kazimi won, in an online auction, a cache of home movies about the Fungs, a middle-class Chinese-American family based in Chicago, he tracked down surviving family members to piece together a portrait of their lives.
The result is a gorgeous, multi-layered document not just about the extended Fung family, but also about immigration, integration, racism in pre- and postwar America and economic opportunities. Historian Henry Yu points out that the “normal” images we see often contradict those from Hollywood and the press.
The man behind the home movies is Silas Fung, a commercial artist who was obsessed with Chicago’s 1933 World’s Fair; his wife, Edythe, sold insurance to Chinese immigrants, basically funding Silas’s home movie hobby.
Their surviving daughter, Irena Lum, brings a forthright personal touch to the film, and Kazimi keeps his own comments to a minimum, resulting in a haunting, essential document that, for all its specificity, comments on the universal human condition.