Tricks on the Dead

(China, Canada, France, France, Belgium, 2014, 95 mins, HDCAM)
World Premiere
EXEC Liu Aimin, Ying Wang
PROD Jordan Paterson, Zhan Jun
SCR Jordan Paterson, Natasha Damiano
CAM Jordan Paterson, Norm Li
ED Jordan Paterson
MUS Mark Korven, Ken Myhr
PROD CO Rare Earth Media Inc.


Jordan Paterson’s involving docudrama delves into a little-known chapter of Canadian history. In 1916, as WWI raged on and the Allied forces suffered devastating casualties, 140,000 indentured Chinese labourers were charged with digging trenches and clearing the dead. Of this number, 85,000 members of what was called the “Chinese Labour Corps” were secretly transported from Vancouver to Halifax in locked trains and then shipped to the Western Front.

The film follows Zhang Yan, a student from the same Shandong villages as the labourers of WWI, as he travels three continents to reconnect Chinese families to their missing ancestors who died overseas. Following the diary notes of a young Chinese interpreter from the war, he hopes to restore the collective memory of those in China who have largely forgotten the journey these men made nearly 100 years ago.

In turn, through intrepid research, interviews, rotoscoped animation and re-enactments, Paterson backs Voltaire’s assertion that “history is nothing but a pack of tricks we play upon the dead.”

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Rare Earth Media Inc.