Cheuk Kwan’s ambitious project dissects the Chinese diaspora through its most recognizable and enduring icon: the family-run Chinese restaurant. Through a 13-part series, the director tours restaurants around the world, examining the lives of extraordinary families who share moving stories of struggle, courage, displacement and belonging as they articulate what it means to be “Chinese” today. Kwan meets with remarkable families in Canada, Israel, Trinidad and Tobago, Mauritius, Madagascar, South Africa, Turkey, Norway, India, Cuba, Peru, Brazil and Argentina. In the process, he discovers the many faces of the Chinese diaspora as they celebrate their unique identities, which have been forged by political and economic forces, their ancestors’ legacies and the vibrant cultures of their chosen homes.
Set against events that have sparked some of the past century’s most dramatic global migrations, Chinese Restaurants recounts histories that have remained at the margins of official records, showing us communities whose culture and identity are held together by a kinship that is stronger, yet more intangible, than mere nationalism, religion, language, geography or politics.
Cheuk Kwan was born in Hong Kong and grew up in Singapore, Hong Kong and Japan. After earning his master’s degree in systems engineering in the U.S., he immigrated to Canada in 1976 where he embarked upon a successful career in information technology. In 1978 the community activist founded The Asianadian, a magazine dedicated to the promotion of Asian Canadian arts, culture and politics and the following year, helped lead a nation-wide fight for equality for Chinese Canadians. In 1995 Kwan joined the Harmony Movement, a national, non-profit organization dedicated to fostering harmony and diversity in Canada through public education. Kwan studied film at New York University in 1998 before establishing his own production company, Tissa Films.
Born in Hong Kong, Kwoi Gin has worked with a diverse and eclectic pool of artists ranging from Bruce MacDonald, Jim Jarmusch to Jackie Chan. He was a close collaborator on Cheuk Kwan’s “Chinese Restaurants” series as the project’s cinematographer.
Moderated by Richard Fung
Richard Fung is a Toronto-based video artist and writer. His tapes include “My Mother’s Place,” “Sea In The Blood,” and “Islands.” He is co-author of “13: Conversations on Art and Cultural Race Politics,” and has been published in numerous journals and anthologies. A winner of the Bell Canada Award for Video and the Toronto Arts Award for Media Art, Fung is an associate professor in the Integrated Media program at the Ontario College of Art and Design.