This feature-length documentary follows William Ging Wee Dere, a Montrealer of Chinese origin, as he attempts to trace his family roots and the history of the Chinese in Canada. William’s grandfather, Der Tan Suey, and father, Dere Chew Yip, both paid the 500$ head tax imposed on Chinese people coming to Canada. The head tax was abolished in 1923, only to be replaced by the so-called Chinese Immigration Act that excluded almost all Chinese from entering Canada until 1947. This unprecedented act separated Chinese families for decades, including William’s. William arrived in Montreal at the age of seven in 1956, when he and his mother were finally allowed entry to the country. His father had not seen him since he was 10 months old. William, along with filmmaker Malcolm Guy, set out to uncover the lost years when his family, like thousands of others in his community, was kept apart from each other, and all were denied basic human rights.
A word from Tënk
After a decade of campaigning for redress against an intransigent government, I wanted to reach out to a wider Canadian audience. A documentary using the sounds and images of film to tell the stories of the Head Tax and Chinese Exclusion Act survivors was an answer. I was able to organize about a dozen or so members of our community to work on the documentary. They soon came to realize that it was a worthwhile film and they believed in it. They started to take ownership of the project, volunteering their time and energy in doing research, looking for subjects to interview, doing the interviews and translating and transcribing for the head tax payers and the widows who lived in Chinatown.
When I undertook to make Moving the Mountain in 1989 to educate the public, I did not anticipate one surprising and heartwarming benefit: that it would inspire and attract community leaders and activists to a campaign that was already a decade old when the film was released. One of these activists was Kenda Gee from Edmonton. The other was Montreal’s May Chiu who first heard about the Head Tax and Exclusion Act when she saw Moving the Mountain at the One World film festival in Ottawa in 1994.
William Ging Wee Dere