The PSU Friends of History presented a highly successful showing of Ivy Lin's 2009 documentary Come Together Home at the Fifth Avenue Cinema on Friday, December 4, 2009 to a standing room only audience on the Portland State University Campus.
The audience members started to take their seats an hour before the showing of the 90 minute film that resulted from Ivy Lin's archival research, travel to China, filming and editing. Come Together Home honors the first wave of Chinese immigrants who made Portland their home after 1850; as loggers railroad and cannery workers. Even though they helped to build Portland, and contributed greatly to setting the foundation of our newly minted state, the Chinese immigrants faced an array of discriminatory practices during their lifetime that unfortunately continued even after the Chinese workmen were dead and buried..
The documentary focused on Block 14 in Portland's Lone Fir pioneer Cemetery, located in southeast Portland.and home to the first Chinese burial ground in Portland. Block 14 was home to as many as (according to estimations) 1500 burials. Instead of being set aside as hallowed grounds honoring the presence and achievements of some of Portland's earliest residents; Block 14 is an eyesore, a fenced-off void of gravel and dirt after most of the remains were exhumed and shipped back to China, via Hong Kong, in two major disinterments of 1928 and 1949.
Director Lin documented her personal quest to find out what happened to the remains, sixty years after the last disinterment. The moving visuals and music of Come Together Home shows off the expertise Ivy acquired from the five years she spent making documentaries at PBS affiliates WILL-TV in Urbana, Illinois and SC-ETV in Spartanburg, South Carolina.
The audience learned why the film's director felt such a personal need to make the documentary. Ivy Lin is no stranger to the immigrant experience, having been born in Taipei and coming to America in 1989.
Now she is part of a group spearheading a campaign to build a memorial to Portland's earliest and mostly forgotten residents who were buried in Block 14. The last part of Come Together Home focuses on the planning being made for the construction of the memorial at Lone Fir Cemetery.
After the screening, Lin took questions from the large and apprecative audience which was made up of students, senior citizens, families with children and history buffs. This free showing was one of several free historical and cultural programs put on each year by the non-profit Friends of History at Portland State University for scholars and the general public.