One of Fleming’s most well-known films, The Magical Life of Long Tack Sam, chronicles the life of her great grandfather, a traveling magician from the early 1900s who performed throughout China before bringing his act to the US. “His story was an immigrant story but it was such a fabulous one — He didn’t come here as a rail worker or laundry person. He also struggled, but his life was extraordinary. I wanted to celebrate that,” says Fleming.
Fleming’s film received so much attention, particularly among young audiences, that she was invited to write a graphic memoir based on the same story. The book, also titled The Magical Life of Long Tack Sam, was listed by the American Library Association’s 2007 top ten list of great graphic novels for teens and won the Doug Wright Award for Best Canadian Comic. But even more gratifying for Fleming were the countless letters she received from young readers sharing their families' stories of immigration.
Now one Canada's most-recognized filmmakers, Fleming notes the role of her SFU MFA in helping shape her practice as a filmmaker. “I was in a really varied group with musicians and dancers. It could be frustrating at times because collaborations never turned out the way you thought they would. I still think about those experiences 20 years later and what they taught me about how people can approach the same material in different ways.”
Author: Jackie Amsden