Kenneth Eng’s acclaimed documentary MY LIFE IN CHINA will premiere Tuesday, May 24, 2016 at 8 p.m. on WORLD Channel (check local listings), as part of the fourth season of AMERICA REFRAMED, public media’s newest documentary series hosted by Natasha Del Toro. The broadcast will be followed by 90 days of free streaming for audiences across the U.S. at www.worldchannel.org/americareframed starting on May 25th.
MY LIFE IN CHINA is an unvarnished portrait of the life and memories of a stoic and reticent man committed to his family and two sons. Director Kenneth Eng’s father would often tell them the story of how he walked for seven days and six nights before swimming for four hours to Macau to escape poverty and Communism. Upon their visit to rural China for the first time in 18 years, Eng and his father retrace the perilous steps his father chanced in search of a better life. Eng’s father reflects, “In 1966, everyone wanted to go to the U.S., people were starving.” His father was one of thousands to make the journey.
Despite being educated, the only work Eng’s father could secure in the U.S. was in fast food Chinese restaurants. Although he eventually worked his way to owning a restaurant, his accomplishment was short-lived when the business shuttered due to bankruptcy. Most days, Eng’s father cares for his wife who was diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia. Believing he failed in his goal of attaining the American dream, Eng’s father earnestly considers a move back to China. In 2007, Eng accompanied his father to his village, visiting with family along the way.
Toisan (also spelled Taishan or Toishan) is a county in Guangdong Province in the Pearl River Delta and home to Eng’s ancestral village. The province is known as the “Number One Home of the Overseas Chinese.” It’s estimated that over 75 percent of all Chinese in North America hail from this region. In Toisan, Eng and his father visit their family home, now vacant, to discover a mesmerizing portrait of the family matriarch, his grandmother who, he learns, sold her only treasure during WWII to feed the family.
The film explores the universal themes of home, exile and belonging, as well as contrasting the elusive American dream with life in modern China and the emerging Chinese dream. Conflicting and heart-wrenching emotions come to the fore as memories from the past collide with the present. With his father, Eng not only witnesses but participates in ritual and shared meals, connecting him to tradition, ancestry and family bonds shaping his identity.
As a result of the documentary process, intensified by his father’s deep love and quiet strength, Eng finds his true self revealed through the camera lens. Poignant and life affirming,MY LIFE IN CHINA is a universal story about promise, purpose and living life without regrets. “My father’s story would fall on my deaf ears until I returned to China with him,” says Eng. “During my entire childhood, I couldn’t comprehend the magnitude of his story until I saw it with my own eyes. It’s only now that I am beginning to understand and truly value his selfless act.”
In 2007, Kenneth Eng was awarded the Guggenheim Fellowship to make MY LIFE IN CHINA.
Director: Kenneth Eng
Writer/Producer: Ehren Parks
About AMERICA REFRAMED
AMERICA REFRAMED is a co-production of the WORLD Channel and American Documentary, Inc. and is hosted by journalist Natasha Del Toro.
Season 4 of AMERICA REFRAMED curates a diverse selection of films highlighting innovative and artistic approaches to storytelling from emerging and veteran filmmakers alike. Viewers will be immersed in personal stories from the streets of towns big and small to the exurbs and country roads that span the spectrum of American life. The documentaries invite audiences to reflect on topics as varied as culture, healthcare, politics, gun violence, religion and more. Several episodes feature a roundtable discussion moderated by host Natasha Del Toro with special guest commentators and filmmakers.
In 2015, AMERICA REFRAMED won a GRACIE Outstanding Series award, and was nominated for an EMMY award as well as an Independent Documentary Association award for best curated series. In its first season, AMERICA REFRAMED received five 2013 CINE Golden Eagle Awards, and one Imagen Awards nomination.
Lia Chang is an actor, a multi-media content producer and co-founder of Bev’s Girl Films, making films that foster inclusion and diversity on both sides of the camera. Bev’s Girl Films’ debut short film, Hide and Seek was a top ten film in the Asian American Film Lab’s 2015 72 Hour Shootout Filmmaking Competition, and she received a Best Actress nomination. BGF collaborates with and produces multi-media content for artists, actors, designers, theatrical productions, composers, musicians and corporations. Lia is also an internationally published and exhibited photographer, a multi-platform journalist, and a publicist. Lia has appeared in the films Wolf, New Jack City, A Kiss Before Dying, King of New York, Big Trouble in Little China, The Last Dragon, Taxman and Hide and Seek. She is profiled in Examiner.com, Jade Magazine and Playbill.com.