Documentarian Robin Lung has made a career of bringing untold stories to life in her film. The Chinese American producer-director seems to be most inspired by stories that reflect the rich cultural diversity of the United States and put minority voices in the limelight.
In Finding Kukan, Lung chronicles the fascinating real-life drama that surrounds one of the first American feature documentaries to receive an Academy Award – the 1941 film about the Chinese resistant to Japanese aggression during the early days of World War II, Kukan.
Kukan made history in many ways. It was a color film shot on location in World War II China. It was considered a “lost” film for several decades as it was the only Oscar-winning documentary that the Academy Film Archives did not have a copy of in their vaults. But it’s the mystery surrounding the role of its female Chinese American co-producer, Li Ling-Ai, that makes Lung’s Finding Kukan such a compelling watch. Although Ling-Ai was a co-producer and sponsor of Kukan, she was credited as a “technical advisor” in its credits.
Lung’s documentary tells the story of the making of Kukan by Li Ling-Ai and cameraman Rey Scott, along with the contemporary story of the search and restoration of Kukan itself. But as you’ll see in this Full Frame Close Up, Robin Lung’s seven year quest to find Kukan and give Li Ling-Ai the recognition she deserves, has an impact far beyond the makings of a good story.