Thalassa, TV5 – cable 59 in Vancouver
Les Dragon Boats de False Creek: False Creek Women and Gung Haggis Dragon Boat teams featured worldwide on French TV.
Nothing beats the excitement of the dragon boats racing on False Creek in Vancouver for the Alcan Dragon Boat Festival in June, 2004. Except maybe if you and your team is being filmed for a television show about dragon boats, and it will be shown world wide. Oh – the show will be in french… and your french is tres mal… Oh – c'est la vie, je suis tres desolee.
In June, 2004, the film crew for the French public television production “Thalassa” came to Vancouver to film a story about dragon boats. Director Anne Gouraud wanted to capture the intense competition of the world champion False Creek Women's team, and the cameraderie and multicultural nature of the recreational dragon boat team known as Gung Haggis Fat Choy.
The show opens with the picture of a paddle painted with Chinese characters, teams paddling on False Creek, and pictures of Vancouver Chinatown. The narrator tells how Chinese came across the Pacific to settle in the port of Vancouver, despite the terrible racism perpetuated by the dominant white society. A voice tells the story of how resentment by white people in Vancouver against the Chinese pioneers resulted in a white mob causing a riot in Vancouver Chinatown.
And thus opens this french language travelogue that features a stop in Vancouver, to demonstrate how the dragon boat festival, is used as a bridge to build harmony between two different cultures. The history and tradition of dragon boats is captured in a Taoist tradition of “dotting they eyes” to “awaken” the dragons from their long sleep, as the festival takes place at the time of summer solstice.
I was fortunate to be chosen, to serve as an example of a recreational dragon boat team with my team, Gung Haggis Fat Choy, that I have developed and coached for 3 years. For this team, I wanted to create a multicultural vision of inclusivity, a team that would share their cultural distinctions and enjoy their mutual enthusiasm through paddling dragon boats.
It was exciting to watch this segment of the program Thalassa (which is Greek for “The Sea”). 5 months after we were filmed by the cameras, and about 8 months after I was first contacted. It was great to see faces that I knew on the False Creek Women's team, faces from our Gung Haggis Fat Choy team, friends from other teams and festival staff that all helped create a wonderful lively atmostphere for racing.
Anne Gouraud did a wonderful job capturing the stories of two very different yet very alike teams. Andrea Dillon coaches the False Creek Women's team – a competitive team that has won medals at every World Championship they have ever entered. In Vancouver and around the world, this team is legendary in dragon boat circles for their competitive nature and most of all their consistency to be at the top.
Gung Haggis Fat Choy is designed to be a fun recreational team. We did only 12 practices before the Alcan Dragon Boat Festival compared to the 30+ practices that competitive teams do. For GHFC, the importance is on having fun, and expressing the joys of multicultural education through dragon boating and other activities. It is a team tradition to visit the Dr. Sun Yat Sen Gardens on one of our last team practices. We tour the Chinese Classical Gardens as an example of Yin and Yang, Harmony and Balance, and then to integrate these practices through a Tai Chi lesson, and then into our dragon boat practices. The film crew captured our race day tai chi sessions in the Dr. Sun Yat Sen Park, as well as our race visualizations and special team building exercise – the one finger lift, where each person helps to raise a team mate's body by using only one finger.
The film uses me, Todd Wong, as a central figure to explain how East and West is integrated in Vancouver, and how multiculturalism is beneficial to society. A scene shows me walking down a Chinatown street to enter the Happy Day Chinese Pharmacy, as I am diagnosed by a practitioner of Chinese Medicine. She feels my pulse, and examines my Chi (life force) energy, then prescribes special herbs and minerals for which I later make into a tea. The narration tells the story when I was stricken with a life-threatening cancer illness in 1989, I used Asian healing practices to help recover my health. I do believe that an understanding of multiculturalism helped me to be more open to other ways of healing other than the Western allopathic traditions of germ theory.
In the next day or so, I will try to create a transcript of the program to share with people. This will be good for the GHFC team members who don't speak French, for the dragon boat community, and blog readers who can learn more about this wonderful sport called dragon boat racing that I seem to have devoted much of my life to over the past 11 years.