Meet Kenneth eng
"Who am I?" Kenneth Eng once asked himself. He started finding answers by making My Life in China, an award-winning documentary about his father's perilous flight from China during the Cultural Revolution to pursue the American Dream in Boston. Kenneth speaks with QARI about how his initial struggles with his cultural heritage was a barrier to discovering his authentic self-identity.
"As a young person growing up in Boston, I was embarrassed to be Chinese. To avoid being bullied at school, I learned to speak English without any kind of accent. The pressure to assimilate was great and in doing so something was lost within myself. I felt empty and unfulfilled – disconnected from my family and friends. I felt invisible – like I didn’t exist. Who am I?
My Life In China is a film I had to make before I moved on with my life.
Through the process of making the film, I was able to rediscover myself, learn to value and love who I am and where I come from. I also developed a deeper respect and understanding for other people and their respective journeys in life. I learned compassion for other people.
As a first generation Asian American, it was a difficult decision to defy my parents’ career wishes and pursue art. It was an even tougher one to try to make it as a documentary filmmaker. For me, it’s a big achievement to be someone who came out of the poor immigrant community of Boston, be a product of the Boston Public School System, study Film at the School of Visual Arts, NY, and work my way up to being an independent filmmaker.
I’ve discovered the power, privilege, and responsibility that comes with being a documentary filmmaker. My purpose is to use film to connect the world to deepen understanding and build compassion for our shared human existence. I want to inspire people to chase their dreams and to learn to embrace who they are and be a positive force.
My Life in China is the result of my desire to tell my story in my own authentic way.
As an Asian Pacific American, how do we learn to own our identity while educating the rest of America about who we are? With My Life in China and all my other work, I want to honor and acknowledge the sacrifice of my father and all of our ancestors as well as help forge the new Asian American identity.
- Let us use film to bring the younger and older generations together.
- Let us acknowledge the sacrifice of the generation that came before us.
- Let us learn to love ourselves so we can learn to have more compassion for others.
- And let us bring more awareness to the mental health of our aging community.