Clever visuals and an intriguing story make for a heartfelt personal documentary with universal appeal.
Long Tack Sam was a huge vaudeville star, traveling the globe in the 1920s and ’30s with his troupe of Chinese acrobats. All but forgotten now, he was almost as forgotten among members of his own family. This prompted filmmaker Ann Marie Fleming (and Sam’s great-granddaughter) to delve into the past to learn who this man was, where he came from, what became of him, and why his family never talked about him.
Fleming uses interviews and a very creative animation style to bring family photos to life. Vignettes in graphic novel style relate portions of her great-grandfather’s unusual story. This engaging blend of historical and personal documentary traces Sam’s interesting life and his important place in early 20th-century popular culture. Most importantly, it connects this almost forgotten ancestor to his extended family in a very real and personal way. [**** out of 5]
Currently unavailable on DVD, this film occasionally airs on the Sundance Channel.