Film Reviews

Review: ‘Random Acts of Legacy’

Hot Docs 2016

Courtesy of Hot Docs


Random Acts of Legacy
(Canada, 77 min.)
Dir. Ali Kazimi
Programme: Canadian Spectrum (World Premiere)

Random Acts of Legacy marks the debut of Chinese-American amateur filmmaker and Chicago World’s Fair memorabilia obsessive Silas Fung. Filmmaker Ali Kazimi’s bid on a batch of decaying film turned out to be Fung’s highly evocative portrait of his Chinese-American middle class family in the first half of the twentieth century. During that time period, home movies were almost exclusively the domain of white middle and upper-class families, so Kazimi was keen on exploring Fung’s film footage as a lens to view the Asian-American experience from the Depression Period through the post World War II years.

Kazimi uses a fairly conventional documentary approach here, interviewing family members as well as “expert” Asian American Studies and film professors. One interesting aspect is that Kazimi shows the different reactions to viewing the footage of some of Silas Fung’s surviving family members. Fung’s filmmaking and collecting endeavours were financed by his wife, who was a high-ranking employee at the SunLife Insurance company. Kazimi uses Fung’s family to elaborate on the infamous treatment of Asian Americans by the governments of the United States and Canada, who sent them to internment camps or deported them back to Asia during World War Two. Fung’s found footage makes one wonder what other surviving personal documents from that era exist that can help piece together otherwise forgotten minority stories. “All I could do,” Kazimi says in the film, “was to honour this precious inheritance.”

Random Acts of Legacy screens:
-Monday, May 2 at TIFF Bell Lightbox at 9:00 PM
-Thursday, May 5 at TIFF Bell Lightbox at 1:30 PM
-Sunday, May 8 at Innis Hall at 4:30 PM

Please visit the POV Hot Docs hub for more coverage on this year’s festival.

Hot Docs runs April 28 – May 8. Visit www.hotdocs.ca for more