Director: Kim Webby
Producer: Alex lee
Country: New Zealand
Wellington 1905, a figure stalks elderly Joe Kum Yung at night, it’s the shadow of death. Wellington 2023, a young woman follows her ancestor’s ghost as she burns for justice.
Blending fiction, historical recreation, magical realism and documentary,
Memory of Longing chronicles the true story of New Zealand Chinese immigrant Joe Kum Yung, who was murdered in 1905 by a notorious white supremacist - and the efforts of his fictional great-great granddaughter to document his story, thus gaining insight into her own complex ancestry and lived experiences.
Joe was 68 and crippled, a luckless Chinese goldminer, shot dead by a white supremacist, in Wellington, New Zealand in 1905.
Fictional, 26-year-old An, is Eurasian and adopted. An has just found her Chinese birth mother and is learning about being Chinese. When she makes a documentary about Joe’s murder, An grapples with her own half European, half Chinese identity as she confronts the white supremacy that killed Joe and the systemic anti -Asian sentiment in New Zealand at the time, reinforced by laws and policies. She realises little has changed with white supremacy again on the rise.
As An investigates Joe’s life and death, the edges blur between past and present, until finally An and Joe meet face to face in the Chinese gold mining settlement where he spent 33 years, in New Zealand’s South Island.
Joe’s story is 118 years old but it’s more important than ever. Throughout the world white supremacy and hate crimes are on rise, with Asians frequently The target. In New Zealand in 2019 an Australian white supremacist slaughtered 51 New Zealand Muslims at prayer. During the Covid pandemic 11,400 hate incidents were reported against Asian Americans.
As a documentary maker, I strive to promote social justice and equality.As a Eurasian New Zealander, my films also explore my steps to discover my Chinese heritage, because as an adopted person my experiences with Chinese culture are mostly learned rather than lived. As a female (she/her) filmmaker, I also make films from the perspective of a strong woman, but with sensitive enquiries into different cultural contexts.
My stories are often about a central character who is misunderstood or even vilified by the mainstream. I offer an alternative perspective, then leave it for viewers to decide.I am motivated to provide insight into worlds often overlooked or misunderstood and to skew the discussion. Joe’s story resonates with me because we are both from Poon Yue in Guangdong, South China.