I HAVE SEEN MY LAST BORN
Directed by Samuel Gray Anderson, Lee Isaac Chung
Official Selection, 2015 Los Angeles Asian Pacific Film Festival
Lee Isaac Chung is known for his powerful fiction films Munyurangabo and Abigail Harm. His new film, I HAVE SEEN MY LAST BORN (which he photographed and co-directed with Samuel Gray Anderson) establishes him as a maker of equally rich and affecting documentaries.
The film follows Jean Kwezi, who works for Chung and Anderson’s Almond Tree Films in Rwanda, but whose deepest commitment is to build a relationship with his teenaged daughter, Alice. Jean abandoned Alice to her mother when she was very young, and she grew up with the stigma of being fatherless, a shame and sadness it sometimes seems weighs more on Jean than on Alice. Indeed, his regret is almost a barrier to their ability to connect – a goal which he pursues with near comic sincerity. We hear him narrate, “I tell her interesting or funny stories…I use that opportunity to ask her about deeper matters,” and then watch him awkwardly try out that technique at dinner.
Jean does not have all the answers with Alice, but he cares about making their every moment together matter. The same can be said for Chung and Anderson as documentarians. Each scene is an act of discovery, as Jean’s openness and responsibility to the people around him lead to unforeseen developments. This is the spirit that unites Jean Kwezi and the filmmakers, and it’s an inspiration to see. –Lev Kalman