In the years following the 1911 Xinhai revolution in China, the country was rapidly emerging into international affairs for the first time. Yet its emergence was on the backs of an unlikely group of Chinese peasants who were sent to an imperialist war they didn’t understand.
The First World War erupted in 1914 and by 1916 Allied powers had suffered devastating casualties. As a result British, French and Chinese states formed agreements to send almost 140,000 Chinese labourers to the battlefields of Europe.
85,000 of this newly formed ‘Chinese Labour Corps’ were secretly transported across Canada in locked CPR trains during the racist Chinese Head Tax period. They were then shipped to Europe where thousands died clearing munitions and the dead on the Western Front.
Zhang Yan, a student from the same Shandong villages as the labourers of WWI, travels three continents to reconnect Chinese families to their missing ancestors who died overseas. Following the diary notes of a young Chinese interpreter in WWI he hopes to restore the collective memory of those in China who have largely forgotten the journey these men made nearly 100 years ago.
Behind the Scenes
From the Archives
Gu Xingqing Sky Kao
Sun Gan Jian Ping Su
Dr. Harry Livingstone Chris Cope
2nd Lt. Daryl Klein Robert Lawrenson
Major Wells William Samples
Major James Steve James
Major Tyms Mackenzie Gray
Kao Wenzhe Wei Xin
Zhang Yan Himself
Xu Guoqi Himself
Gregory James Himself
Philip Vanhaelemeersch Himself
Gérard Tchang Himself
Sun Guanglong Himself
Executive Producers Ying Wang, Aimin Liu
Director Jordan Paterson
Screenwriter Jordan Paterson, Natasha Damiano
Cinematography Jordan Paterson, Norm Li, CSC
Production Design Cole Paterson, Candise Paul
Editing Jordan Paterson
Music Mark Korven / Ken Myhr
Casting Directors Jian Ping Su / Edward Rea
Dialogue Coach Laura Carnet
Sound He Wei
Producer Jordan Paterson
Line-Producer Jian Ping Su
Production with the support of Rare Earth Media Inc.
Rogers Media / OMNI TV, Creative BC
Canadian Distribution Rare Earth Media Inc.
Jordan Paterson at the 2016 Canadian Screen Awards
Jian Ping Su, Natasha Damiano, Jordan Paterson, Ying Wang at VIFF red carpet.
Awards & Screenings
2016 Canadian Screen Awards – Best Cinematography in a Documentary Program or Series
2016 Canadian Screen Awards – Best Production Design in a Non-Fiction Program or Series
2015 Vancouver International Film Festival – Audience Must See Award
2015 Guangzhou International Documentary Film Festival – Best International Production
2015 Leo Awards – Best Short documentary program
2015 Leo Awards – Best Cinematography in a documentary program or series
2015 Leo Awards – Best Editing in a documentary program or series
2015 Yorkton Film Festival – Best Director
2015 Yorkton Film Festival – Best Research
2015 Canada International Film and Television Festival – Best documentary
Portland Film Festival – Official Selection
Victoria Film Festival – Official Selection