If you could save just one object symbolising your family history what would it be?
For Californian DIONE CHEN (daughter of 'Free China' junk-mate, the late RENO CHEN) it was the rare old sailing junk that carried her father and five mates from Taiwan to San Francisco in 1955.
The feature-length documentary Return of the Free China Junk follows the heart-felt journey of a daughter to pay homage to her father's memory -- and in doing so becomes a catalyst for an international effort to save the junk boat before it's turned into firewood in northern California.
A tale of perseverance, the film explores the little known story of the world's oldest surviving wooden Chinese sailing junk of its kind, 'Free China' -- and her impossible journey home from California to Taiwan nearly sixty years later.
Fuelled by the dreams of old and young alike from both sides of the Pacific, the legacy of the 'Free China' junk impacts not only on collective family histories -- but also on the psyche and aspirations of a nation.
THE UNFOLDING STORY
Following her father's death in 2007, DIONE CHEN decides to visit the junk boat, abandoned in a Sacramento Delta boatyard, one last time -- and show her children who had never seen it.
“I’m not going to fall in love with that old junkie junk”, she tells UNCLE PAUL (PAUL CHOW the initiator of the junk's 1955 voyage & navigator) who warns her not to go.
Yet, fall in love she does. And fact rivals fiction as one challenge after another arises in finding a permanent ‘home’ for the junk and how to transport the fragile vessel.
Octogenarian junk-mates CALVIN MEHLERT (former U.S. Vice Consul, Taipei) and PAUL CHOW also join the effort. From the Taiwan side, the charismatic Ms. LUNG YINGTAI (historian & former Minister of Culture, Taiwan), Professor LAURENCE LWO (National Taiwan Ocean University) and legislator Dr. CHIAU WEN-YAN embrace the mission of bringing the junk "home" from USA with such enthusiasm it's infectious.
During 2012, junk-mates LOO-CHI HU (HULOO), PAUL and CALVIN converge (from California and New Zealand, respectively) at the same port in Keelung, Taiwan where the junk first departed in 1955. With their families from around the globe in tow, they are finally reunited with one another and the junk that impacted their lives in so many ways. Their reunion is bitter-sweet with the deeply felt absence of fellow junk-mates RENO CHEN, MARCO CHUNG and BENNY HSU.
The vivacious DIANE SHIPWAY (whose team, including PHIL JOY, oversaw the complex design and implementation of moving the junk) reflects on the formidable process and her great delight in seeing the junk home.
Note: film colleagues have likened the monumental efforts of transporting the junk to that of Werner Herzog's vessel in the film Fitzcarraldo!
Return of the Free China junk picks up where the prequel award-winning film The Free China Junk (2010) left off. See www.thefreechinajunkfilm.com Both films showcase junk-mate CALVIN's stunning colour Kodachrome from the actual 1955 trans-Pacific voyage -- and a fabulous film score by JIM KIMO WEST, the lead guitarist of the Grammy award-winning "Weird Al" Yankovic (www.jimkimowest.com).
Return of the Free China is a stand-alone film in its own right. It celebrates the adventurous spirit of the junk-mates -- and the positive power and perseverance of the next generation and international collaborators to save a treasured piece of history for the future.
HOW YOU CAN HELP
Return of the Free China Junk has just received early acceptance for the New Zealand International Film Festival 2015, July/August in Auckland, Wellington & Christchurch! The year 2015 represents the 60th anniversary of the junk's original voyage from Taiwan to San Francisco in 1955. That seems auspicious.
We screened the film as a work-in-progress to the Festival. Now we need your help in order to complete the film in time for its upcoming World Premiere. And that's where this Kickstarter comes in!
We appreciate your assistance in any way you can help support the film's completion -- and getting the word out as widely and quickly as possible for a successful campaign. Many thanks in anticipation!!
HOW IT STARTED
On the verge of burn-out after a five-year struggle to complete the prequel The Free China Junk, director/producer ROBIN GREENBERG had no inkling that a sequel film would beckon just around the corner… But as momentum started to build for saving the junk, and she was urged to document the story, how could she turn away?
The magic of the junk seems to have woven its spell around Robin too!
It's junk-mate LOO-CHI HU (HULOO) who first piqued Robin's interest in the amazing story of the 'Free China' junk many years ago in Christchurch, New Zealand. Huloo was Robin's long-time T'ai Chi teacher and mentor. Her biographical film Huloo (2008) about his remarkable life included a chapter about the 1955 voyage. This then naturally evolved into her first full-length feature documentary The Free China Junk (2010). This is why the director of the New Zealand International Film Festival is referring to this sequel film Return of the Free China Junk as the last of the "trilogy"!
With your help we will complete the film in time for its World Premiere in New Zealand during July, along with future screenings near you!
ABOUT OUR TEAM
OUR FABULOUS CAST & CREW INCLUDE…
Junk-mates: RENO CHEN, PAUL CHOW, MARCO CHUNG, LOO-CHI HU (HULOO) & CALVIN MEHLERT (former U.S. Vice Consul, Taipei)
LUNG YINGTAI (historian & former Minister of Culture, Taipei)
LAURENCE LWO (National Taiwan Ocean University, Keelung)
CHIAU WEN-YAN (Legislator, Executive Yuan, Taiwan)
HANS VAN TILBURG (NOAA Office of National Marine Sanctuaires)
With TEH-HAN CHOW, SHIRLEY LIH-LAN HU and TONG-CHING HU
Cinematography: CHEN WEN-CHI (Taiwan) & JOHN CHRISSTOFFELS (New Zealand)
Sound: CHEN DENG-HUI
Additional Camera (USA): CHRISTIAN BRUNO, CLAY WESTERVELT
Editor: PETER METCALF, 195 Suites Ltd
Music: JIM KIMO WEST (www.jimkimowest.com)
Sound Mix: IAN LESLIE, Underground Sound Ltd. (www.undergroundsound.co.nz)
Director/Producer: ROBIN GREENBERG
We could not have made it this far, to date, without the generosity and encouragement of numerous individuals in New Zealand, USA and Taiwan!
Some early sponsorship (from Taipei Economic & Cultural Office-Wellington, Rainbow Holidays, and Ministry of Culture, Taiwan) allowed us to capture events as they were unfolding in Taiwan. Thanks to additional excellent filming by junk-mate CALVIN MEHLERT and LAURENCE LWO we had the visual bones of the stories from the California side too.
Without our grassroots helpers in Wellington, Christchurch and Martinborough during 2014, we wouldn't have been able to take our first steps forward for editing. We're also indebted to veteran editor PETER METCALF and composer JIM KIMO WEST, who have enabled this film to nearly reach the finish line despite lack of funding. Heart-felt thanks to you all!
Before this film could be completed, very sadly, junk-mate LOO-CHI HU (HULOO), passed away in Christchurch, New Zealand, late 2013. It was Huloo who first introduced Robin to the legend of the 'Free China' junk. This film will be dedicated to his memory.
The film also pays tribute to the passing of DIANE SHIPWAY and JOE SPOTTS -- along with junk-mates RENO CHEN, MARCO CHUNG & BENNY HSU…
The spirit of the 'Free China' junk stories and its inspiring characters will live on with your support, thank you!!!
Risks and challenges
Challenges? Bring them on!
We've faced challenge after challenge over a four-year period to shepherd this project from an improbable idea through filming to near-completion. It's been a labor-of-love documentary throughout.
'Return of the Free China Junk' unexpectedly grew out of Robin's prequel 'The Free China Junk' (2010), which blossomed from her film 'Huloo' (2008) which took five years to complete... So we're not exaggerating to say this film represents the culmination of a twelve year passion (obsession?) to research and document the fantastic stories surrounding the 'Free China' junk!
The perseverance it took to find a way to save the rare junk and transport it safely to its new home mirrors the dedication of our awesome team to bring this film to fruition to the highest quality with all too few financial resources.
It's thanks to the incredible grass-roots efforts of friends across New Zealand last year, with fundraising events in Christchurch and Martinborough, that enabled us to make a start with editing.
Now we truly need your assistance to complete the final stage of editing, music, color-grading and sound-mix!
Please help support this film to whatever degree you can, and you too will become part of the journey to bring this inspirational story to life!
And IF we're fortunate enough to exceed our target, then any additional funding will be prioritised toward getting the film seen as widely as possible, namely:
- showcasing the film on international film festival circuit (hopefully near you!)
- creating a Chinese subtitled version
We can't wait to celebrate this uplifting film with you soon.
Many thanks in anticipation! :-)
- (21 days)