Film explores historical relations between Musqueam First Nation and Chinese

Photo courtesy of Right Relations Productions

When the four Grant siblings learned their late father’s ancestral village, Sei Moon, was about to disappear, they finally decided to go to Guangdong, China for the first time.

Our uncle was the one that suggested we go on the trip, because China was going to put the bullet train through the village. Uncle said if you want to see your father’s village, you got to go now. After Uncle Edmund had said that, then I was on board,” says Larry Grant, second eldest of four siblings.

All of My Father’s Relations follows the family’s journey and was awarded Best Canadian Feature when it premiered this past November at the Vancouver Asian Film Festival. The film, which sold out weeks before the VAFF premiere, will have an encore screening Jan. 28 at SFU Woodward’s Goldcorp Centre for the Arts – Djavad Mowafaghian Cinema.

Family history

Larry Grant (right) and Howard E. Grant (centre) meet their uncle in China for the first time

According to its website, the film records the interconnected histories of Chinese Canadian and First Nations relations along the Fraser River in British Columbia.

“Dating as far back as the 19th century, relations between Chinese and First Nations in Canada were often respectful and mutually beneficial; both peoples supported one another in the face of marginalization and racism,” states the website.

The film features siblings Helen Callbreath, Gordon Grant, Larry Grant, and Howard E. Grant, who are elders with Chinese ancestry from the Musqueam Nation. The siblings share their experiences growing up at Musqueam and in Vancouver’s Chinatown, recalling how their lives, as well as their parents’, were impacted by discriminatory legislation.

The Grants’ father, Hong Tim Hing, left the village of Sei Moon in Guangdong, China in 1920, arriving in Vancouver, BC – the unceded territory of the Musqueam hən̓q̓əmin̓əm̓-speaking people. He worked on the Lin On Farm at Musqueam Indian Reserve 2, where he met his wife, Agnes Grant.

Unique relations

Director/producer Alejandro Yoshizawa previously worked with Larry Grant, along with the film’s co-producer Sarah Ling, on the Chinese Canadian Stories project between 2010 and 2012, and wanted to document this meeting as this was a story not often told in Canadian history.

“When Sarah and I heard that the Grant family were going to go back to China, go to their father’s ancestral village for the first time, we thought that would be a fantastic thing to record and a good starting point for a film. We went on that trip in 2013,” says Yoshizawa.

The family had some support from the Chinese Consulate, which helped facilitate transportation and access to the village. The consulate also provided two days with an interpreter on their trip to the village.

Grant says the Chinese Consulate heard about their story and realized the family was considered Chinese (living) abroad.

“They got interested in how we were raised in both societies,” says Grant.

Grants says that there are many other people with the same lineage, but who know only one side or the other.

“But we grew up knowing of both sides of our lineage. That’s the part I believe to be the real trigger to be interested in it … because we were aware that one side was completely Indigenous and the other side was Chinese,” says Grant.

Challenges of oral history

Director Alejandro Yoshizawa on the set of All Our Father’s Relations.

For Grant, his mother epitomized the value of oral history because she didn’t read or write in any language.

“You carry the family tree in your head – all the historical things that happened and the stories. You’re told these stories over and over again ‘til you’re sick and tired of hearing them. It’s not until you realize that what it’s all about, that you get it and understand why it’s so important,” he says.

Because the film was mostly based on oral history, it presented challenges in terms of images. The family also had very few family photographs. Yoshizawa says this is why he decided to incorporate animation.

“That was one of the reasons why we added a few of the animated sequences, because it adds a different aesthetic to the film. It’s meant to bring the audience back in time, to experience that with moving images as opposed to black and white photos and archival documents,” says Yoshizawa.

For more information, visit www.allourfathersrelations.com.

Leave a Reply