Kenda Gee: Gim Wong was one of a kind
On Friday (August 9), Vancouver lays to rest a man of extraordinary integrity whose way of life impacted so many Canadians here at home and audiences around the world.
The outpouring of emotion from people from all walks of life will not be without reason.
Gim Wong, distinguished air-force veteran and Chinese Canadian redress activist, had the ability to face any challenge and change old minds to show what the future could be.
Many in the community knew Gim as a trusted colleague or dear friend. Others saw or read about him in the media. I grew to know Gim from our first exchanges of telephone calls and letters over two decades ago.
Gim's photographic memory was his charm and brilliance. It left no room for error or guesswork. One did not have to have lived in the past. They were already there with Gim's help.
Many injustices that Gim and the Chinese Canadian community fought off the battlefield stood and fell at a different time. But one thing always remained constant: it is never easy being the lone voice in a world that is patently unfair. Gim lived a principled life and refused to betray the truth.
In 2011, Gim starred in Lost Years, a documentary project that touches upon 150 years of the Chinese diaspora, becoming the first miniseries of its kind to be broadcast by a national network in Canada.
It has travelled the international film circuit, gone on to receive several awards and nominations, and opened the eyes of a global audience. At its U.S. premiere, the Seattle International Film Festival, a reviewer wrote simply of Gim: "Get this man a solo documentary."
In filming, one knew there would never be a second "take" with Gim because he always got it right the first time. Tom Radford, coproducer and noted filmmaker with over 40 years experience in the television and movie industry, has observed how lucky and rare it is to come across a story that tells itself. Now, he remarks, it is so hard to believe that Gim is gone, given what a life force Gim was.
Of course, Tom knows, as we all do, that Gim is still with us today. Gim's honesty and vision of a just society is his legacy that remains with us today.
If the axiom that time is money is to be believed, then there are indeed a great many producers out there who continue to owe an enormous debt of gratitude and finance. Gim's storytelling was not an expense; it was the best investments or gifts one could make or receive in their lifetime.
Yet, Gim's greatest and endearing contribution in this lifetime will not be his candour of the past of which many would sooner forget, it will forever be in his unwavering vision of what today and tomorrow should look like.
The point was never to "rewrite history", Gim always said. Rather: "just tell it like it is."
And so now, at this time of sadness and tribute, I am here to tell it like it is: Gim Wong was one of a kind. There will not be another Gim Wong. We applaud him, we salute him, and we thank him dearly for leaving us all such a rich legacy.
To the Wong family—Mui, Jan, Cyndi, Donna, Jeff, Dina, and Lisa—and to all who knew Gim, our heart-felt thoughts and condolences go.
Kenda Gee is the Edmonton-based producer and director of Lost Years.