This documentary is an off-shoot from my previous personal feature film Reunification (2015), where the focus this time is on my father who, once a pre-teen orphan, a refugee before a war, a self-taught man, a divorcee, a traumatized immigrant, in his mid-70's, has not "found home" yet.
When Home is Elsewhere(2021)
A film by Alvin Tsang
Please support me with a tax-deductible contribution in order to make this film come to fruition!
When Home Is Elsewhere (2021) is an offshoot inspired by my previous personal feature documentary, Reunification (2015). While Reunification reflects on the circumstances surrounding my family’s immigration from Hong Kong to Los Angeles in the 1980s and my parents’ divorce, When Home Is Elsewhere explores the idea of home, and the anxiety of not having "found home." This more abstract need is explored through my father’s life experiences - a pre-teen orphan, a refugee from Vietnam who escaped to Hong Kong, an immigrant, a divorcee, a father. My father is a frugal and practical man. At 74 years old, his apartment is empty - no bed, no sofa, only a makeshift table small enough for one person to eat on. Any sound creates an echo. When I asked him why he doesn't make his home more comfortable, he said, "This is not my home. I may move somewhere else tomorrow." His response reminds me of a nomad, a homeless, a refugee - someone who is ready to flee on short notice. His home has always been scanty of material goods. But this echo is just unbearable! In this film, I want to understand what he is looking for and why he is always ready to leave to go elsewhere. I want to know how his refugee experience shaped him and whether global events have impacts greater and more lasting than we could ever comprehend.
The Film that Inspired When Home is Elsewhere
Filmed over a 17-year period, Reunification (2015) gives an insider view on the contemporary immigrant experience, family psychology, and personal filmmaking. This award-winning (Special Jury Prize, San Diego Asian Film Festival) documentary is a personal reflection on my family’s migration from Hong Kong to Los Angeles in the early 1980s – fraught with betrayal from my parents’ divorce, economic strife and communication meltdown between my parents and us children. Screened locally and internationally, this film sparked deep and empathetic dialogues surrounding migration and family. Read my interview with Berliner Festspiele.
Here is the trailer:
At What Stage is When Home is Elsewhere?
I have already interviewed my father on camera numerous times since 2005, including while we lived together in Los Angeles and when he visited me in New York. I also have film footage of our trips in Vietnam and the various places where he temporarily lived (Puerto Rico and Hong Kong). Collectively, these footage reflect on his mental, emotional and physical changes through the past decade and a half. Depending on the status of the Covid-19 pandemic, I am planning to conduct a final interview with my father and shoot additional b-roll footage in San Diego later this year. In the meantime, post-production has already begun.
I think immigrants of all ethnicity will find comfort in this film but my target audience is the general public. Although this film focuses on one person's life - my father's - this is a universal story of migration. It is a story of a man who had to escape from his homeland as a refugee to avoid a war, to start anew without family, how he lost his new family, and his life-long struggle to find a home. I am inspired to make this film because it is more relevant than ever in light of the refugee crisis and the growing wars around the world. By understanding one man's experience from the impact of war and politics, I want to humanize the refugee and immigrant experience.
How will your tax-deductible contribution be used?
Your generous support will help to primarily cover the editing costs, original music soundtrack, color grading and final sound mix. I hope that you will become my partner in this meaningful journey.
Alvin Tsang, Director
Alvin Tsang is a filmmaker and artist based in New York City. His work explores the more personal human experience to inform on bigger issues such as humanism, community and migration. His award-winning documentary Reunification (2015), about memories of migration and Tsang’s once intact family, was lauded for “explor[ing] the past with a Proustian sensitivity” (The Boston Globe), its “clear-eyed honesty” (Meredith Monk), and being “the film that’s come closest to feeling like a truly distinct Asian-American [film] language [in 2015]” (Salon). Tsang studied film under the tutelage of Babette Mangolte (late Chantal Akerman’s cinematographer) and Jean-Pierre Gorin (co-director of Tout va bien (1972) with Jean-Luc Godard) and was an editing assistant for That's My Face (2001), an Ecumenical Prize winner (Berlinale) by Thomas Allen Harris that explores the mythical African “face” found in Brazil, East Africa and the United States. Tsang served as a co-producer and post-supervisor for Ermena Vinluan’s award-winning documentary, Tea & Justice (2007), which reflects on the very first female Asian-American NYPD officers on the force. Tsang also filmed, edited and co-produced with Vinluan a short documentary profiling John Sayles’s making of Amigo (2010) about the Philippine-American War. His other shorts include Pier Man Fish (2010) and Preservation (2011). He is currently collaborating with artist Siyan Wong on her Five Cents a Can Art Exhibitions (2019-2021) by creating a “gold mountain” and several other conceptual installations out of 5,000+ gold soda cans in order to shed light on the people (mainly immigrants and elderly) who must collect cans and bottles for a living in our land of plenty.