It’s A Magical Life: A Conversation With Filmmaker Ann Marie Fleming
This month, Cinema Asian America on XFINITY On Demand features the award-winning documentary ‘The Magical Life of Long Tack Sam.’
A charming look at the life of a Chinese magician and vaudeville star who performed throughout Europe and the US during the early part of the 20th century, the film is a glimpse into a forgotten family and cultural history.
Made by celebrated Chinese Canadian filmmaker Ann Marie Fleming, the film uniquely makes use of animation and archival footage to delve into the worlds of magic, migration, the Great Wars, one family’s legacy of art-making and world travel.
You come from a long line of artists and entertainers, and in fact, Long Tack Sam is your great-grandfather. How did you come to discover this wonderful, hidden part of your family history?
AMF: When my grandfather passed away, I came in to the possession of some 16mm films that were home movies of Long Tack Sam and his family traveling around the world. The film was falling to pieces and I originally just wanted to donate it to an Asian American entertainer’s archive. I went to see the film Forbidden City, USA by Arthur Dong, about Chinese American nightclub performers in the 1930s-1940s and Arthur told me that he know of Long Tack Sam, and that his sister was starting up an archive in San Francisco. They didn’t have funding yet for preservation.
The archivist Ron Mann helped me transfer the footage onto tape, and introduced me to a magician, David Ben, who opened up this amazing world of magic and vaudeville that I found out my great grandfather was an integral part of. It was pretty exciting! I had no idea he was that well known, and in so many different ways.