Come Back

Behind Left: Grandmother’s sister. Her husband. Granduncle. My grandmother. My grandfather.  Front Left: My mom’s brother Center. My great-grandmother

Behind Left: Grandmother’s sister. Her husband. Granduncle. My grandmother. My grandfather.

Front Left: My mom’s brother Center. My great-grandmother


I never saw my grandfather. My family barely talks about him in front of me. Even though I’m really interested in who he was, I don’t ask because I know they don’t want me to know him. My mother has only vague memories of her father, who disappeared 55 years ago when she was five.

According to her, my grandfather was a crypto-communist who worked underground for many years. He was my grandmother’s second husband. The first marriage of my grandmother had been arranged by her parents. She and her sisters were born in a traditional Chinese Medicine family. Their family was very wealthy, and the girls were well educated, so they were receptive to the progressive thought of the period. For their generation, arranged marriage was a backward thought, so they didn’t obey their parent’s will. Instead, they –along with many aspiring young people across China -- fled to Yan’an, the base of the communist party, and devoted themselves to the revolutionary wave.

A few years later, Mao Zedong proclaimed the establishment of the People’s Republic of China, everybody’s life thoroughly changed with the birth of a new regime. Arranged marriage once again became a privilege. My grandmother was married to an underground party member and her sister was married to a general. Both decisions were made by the Organization Department of the Communist Party. To be married to a communist party member, an official, or a military man was the best option and meant you would have a secure life. Free marriage meant you made no contribution to the Party, so that people who were favored by the Party could only enjoy the special benefit of marriage.

My mother was born on April Fools’ Day of 1959. It was the first year of Great Chinese Famine and the second year of Great Leap Forward. ROC President Chiang Kai-shek took advantage of the moment to launch planning for a counterattack to recover mainland China. Shortly after, my grandfather was assigned to carry out a special task in Shanghai and disappeared, leaving my mom and grandmother behind.

My mom has only one memory. She tells me that my grandfather wanted to see her but my grandmother didn’t allow him to, so he sneaked into her kindergarten with candies. “I didn’t know him. I have no idea who he is. He just held me in his arms as long as he could, and then he sneaked away,” my mom told me, “I know he is my daddy when I grow up.” She never saw him again.

My mom grew up in a family of three people, with her mother and her older brother who is the only man in the family. My grandmother died in 2002 at age of 76. Then my uncle and I became the only people who have blood relations with her. 10 years later, on the same day I came to the U.S, my uncle died of cancer metastasis. My mom lost me temporarily but her brother forever.

During the time of my uncle’s hospitalization, my mom gradually started to tell me more and more about her family history. “I will go and find him.” she says about her father. “Even if I can’t find him, I will find my half-blood siblings. I want to see them.”

Behind Left: My mom. Her brother.  Front Left: Granduncle, Grandmother & her sister

Behind Left: My mom. Her brother.

Front Left: Granduncle, Grandmother & her sister

This documentary will be a portrait of my family and this special generation. In Chinese, the word “country” consists of two single words, country(国) and home(家). After

the revolution, the elimination of private ownership and the rise of public ownership made individual’s destiny bonds with country’s destiny. In that special age, the will of the country and the will of people were understood to be inseparable.

Chinese society has changed rapidly over time from Mao’s era to now, so that there are a lot of things that most people have forgotten. This documentary will examine the special relationship between country and individual and how to reconcile their differences by following the journey of my mon has decided to make to find her father and her half- blood siblings. How is my mom going to find him? What journey she has to go through? Can she find them? Meanwhile, the film will place my grandfather by exploring the social background of his time and try to understand why my grandfather left everything behind. What missions did he receive? What situations was he facing? What dilemmas did he have? Why didn't he come back? Did he start a new career? What is his new family like?

The style of the documentary will be observational and participatory. The camera will follow my mom from when she starts to gather clues until she finally finds her daddy or his family. I am an observer, as well as my mom’s only son, I will assist my mom and be engaged in the journey. Also, using a mix of on-camera interview, real-time event documenting, archival audio and private family photos, all the elements will be applied to the film.