A reflection on lost history and the power of art, this feature documentary follows a filmmaker’s quest to bring recognition to the unheralded woman behind the making of KUKAN, a long-lost Academy Award-winning color documentary about World War II China.
View the Work-In-Progress Teaser
Finding KUKAN is in the beginning stages of post-production. We are currently raising funds to complete a rough cut of the film. You can help bring this story to fruition by making a tax-deductible donation HERE.
Backers who donate $25 or more receive a set of three souvenir postcards made from the original 1941 KUKAN lobby cards; backers who donate $1000 or more receive official film credit.
About The Film
Asian Americans have been a part of American history and culture for many generations, yet the term “Asian American Hero” is still an oxymoron in mainstream media and popular culture. In Finding KUKAN, Hawaii filmmaker Robin Lung embarks on an investigative journey to reclaim a Chinese American heroine from the past. At a time when Chinese Americans were denied basic rights of citizenship, Li Ling-Ai was a pioneering playwright and moviemaker. She was the un-credited producer of KUKAN, a 1941 color film about World War II China, and one of the first documentaries to receive an Academy Award. Why have we never heard of Li Ling-Ai or KUKAN? And why have all copies of KUKAN vanished completely? These questions become deeply personal as Robin learns that the socio-political forces that robbed Ling-Ai of credit and caused KUKAN to go missing have stunted her own aspirations in subversive ways. Prior to producing KUKAN, Li Ling-Ai knew little about making movies and director Rey Scott had never held a motion picture camera in his hands. They had no Hollywood backing or government support. Yet they created an epic color film of China that screened for President Roosevelt at the White House and had long runs in theaters across the country. Robin looks beyond the entrancing Cinderella story of KUKAN to ask why the Academy Award and most of the credit was given to Rey Scott. Were Li Ling-Ai’s achievements overlooked because she was a Chinese woman?
Robin becomes an obsessive history detective in order to document Ling-Ai’s story for future generations. In her quest she finds Rey Scott’s four sons who have a badly damaged print of KUKAN and a tattered scrapbook of articles about the film. The discovery opens doors to forgotten chapters in American history, and prompts Robin to travel to China to learn what drove Ling-Ai to risk everything to make KUKAN. Part historical documentary, part personal discovery, Finding KUKAN crosses genres to explore universal questions about how the unrecorded histories of minorities and women shape current perspectives on race, gender, identity, and art; and why a vibrant American democracy depends on preserving diverse stories from our past.