Two Diasporas

Toronto, Canada
June 30, 2000

I get a call from Cheuk on my cell that Mai’s in town. It took me a second to remember… ah yeah… Kien’s youngest daughter. She’s a stewardess with El Al, the Israeli airline. I remember that she does the Jewish Diaspora route between Tel Aviv and New York, Montreal and Toronto. We are meeting for dinner at Lee Garden on Spadina — appropriately the Chinese restaurant frequented by many of Toronto’s Jewish community.

After dinner, I film Mai walking around Chinatown looking at another Chinese diaspora out of her own context. As I film her, I kept wondering what’s going on through her mind. She tells us that she misses her Chinese food especially while she was in the Israeli Navy. I guess like me, she has a Chinese stomach. But then… Navy food would make anybody crave Chinese or at least something civilized.

CK and David

I get another call this month that Kien’s wife, daughter Nee and her two kids are in town. We never met Mrs. Wong in Haifa. She still remains a mystery.

Cheuk is up to his old trick again. He wants to place the family in another Jewish diaspora context outside of Israel. We meet them for lunch in Little Tel Aviv. It was better than Disneyworld for the kids who have not been able to get any Israeli food for days. I guess these Sabas have an Israeli stomach instead – and they speak Hebrew and feel right at home.

Back at their host’s home, Cheuk shows them Reuters newsreel footage of “boat people” arriving in Israel that he found. To our pleasant surprise, Nee recognizes her family right away and is overjoyed. It is so spontaneous and serendipity a Sony moment that I almost missed it. But we even caught an emotional tear jerky clip of Mrs. Wong whose trust I think we’ve finally won. It’s moments like this that makes working in documentaries all worthwhile.