I first heard of Kwoi from
Daisy Lee, for whom he had shot a couple of her films. "Kwoi is
the only one you ever want on your shoot," Daisy had said
without hesitation, "just donít mind the way he looks."
Kwoi walked into our first meeting dressed entirely in black
(this was summer), key chains hanging from his belt,
wearing a cowboy hat and white-rimmed spectacles. This was to
be his uniform for the next four years. Sometimes just to throw
me off he would show up at the airport, like the time in Peru,
wearing an Israeli army fatigue. Thatís when I put my foot down.
I didnít want die in a crossfire mistaken for the Shinning Path.
Although I have never met Kwoi before our journey together, our
paths had actually crossed. He and I share many of the same
acquaintances from the Asian Canadian community: filmmakers,
historians, artists, community activists, politicians, and
musicians. Being a neophyte myself, it was also Kwoi who put me
in touch with people in the film community that eventually
became the Chinese Restaurants team.
Our journey started on a very cold day in January 2000 from
Saskatoon airport. It ended in August 2003 in a Lima hotel
room when we opened a bottle of champagne to celebrate the final
day of our shoot. Four years, thirteen countries, fifteen
stories, 200,000 kilometers, many bowls of rice and two
birthdays together, we think we have canned the definitive diaspora story.
We work well together. I have a very fluid ambiguous style
-- just going with the flow -- and at times it seemed like I
didnít know what I was doing. I love the uncertainties on
location and donít write my stories until I am back in the
editing suite. There are no call sheets, no transportation
schedules, just return air tickets. I am my own fixer and the
on-location catering was excellent Ė we were well fed by our
Chinese restaurant hosts! Kwoi loved it all and flourished
with his camerawork.
Yet, I still donít know much about Kwoi after our trips
together. He never told me about his girlfriend troubles or his
latent identity crises. Thatís why itís been so wonderful to
read his uncensored journals -- they are funny, whimsical and
And I found out a lot about the man and his
escapades. Like the time after I had left the country, Kwoi
picked up an Uzi-toting army chick in a Jerusalem disco and
proceeded to spend the next forty-eight hours frolicking with
her in (on?) the Dead Sea. No wonder his camera coverage from
that period was poor.
So, here are excerpts from Rice Bowl Diaries. As you can see
from the epilogue, Kwoi came full circle -- he has found himself
through the odyssey. Hey, if Che could do it with his
motorcycle, surely Kwoi can do it with his rice bowl. After all,
they are both known by just one name.