Why I Made A Documentary of My Grandpa

This documentary tells a story of a banker in Kelantan, Malaysia. Born in the 1930s, Thomas Yeap Hock Kee had first-hand experience of the British and Japanese colonization. His photographs were used in this documentary to depict the life of an ordinary man from a young boy to old age. This documentary was filmed by his grand-daughter with the aim to celebrate the beauty of aging and time.

It was just after lunar’s new year 2021 when I was the only one back home to celebrate because my brothers and aunt couldn’t travel due to the lockdown. I was always pondered by the notion of how elders always ask “vague”, “surface”, or “superficial” questions while conversing with their grandchildren. For example, my grandparents often ask us “how’s work?” or “are you happy?”. As I pondered as to why these are the go-to questions, I realized that what if these are the only questions they could come up with because they have not seen us for a long time. Just like catching up with old friends, families can be awkward sometimes too.

Adulting is knowing that our parents and grandparents are humans too.

Being 22 years old and having to leave home soon to start my career, I knew that this would be the last time I’d be at home to spend this much time with my grandparents. In order to tear through the surface questions, I needed to dive deeper into their consciousness and get to know them as their own person. In this case, my grandpa was particularly excited to be filmed while my grandma was rather shy. My other motivation to embark on this project was also inspired by two particular short films that showcased the raw side of emotional connections and the conscious mind of an ageing person.

A Family’s Secret Grief and Trauma Shared for the First Time | The New Yorker Documentary
A 97-Year-Old Philosopher Faces His Own Death l The Atlantic

A good friend of mine, Mohandas, who I had been working with throughout university is a photographer and videographer. I remember that he had encouraged me to embark on this project because he had missed the chance to do so with his grandmother. He also quoted:

Give it your best shot, you’ll never look into the project file again once you uploaded the video.

This quote has grounded me with patience throughout the past year while editing. I am truly lucky to have all the resources in terms of financing the film, time, and my grandpa who is more than happy to share his story. Throughout this process, I had to take up a lot of hats which includes: writer, filmographer, audio technician, film composer, editor etc.

These are all the materials that came together to create a story.
  • Project size: 74.7GB
  • Timeline to completion: 1 year
  • Duration of all footage: 5 hours and 46 minutes
  • Number of materials: 179 clips and 114 images
  • Number of drafts to the final video: 7 drafts
  • Number of drafts to the final soundtracks: 16 drafts

With this, I am proud to present to you my first debut film: A documentary of My Grandpa, Thomas Yeap Hock Kee — A Walk Down Memory Lane.

A Documentary of My Grandpa — A Walk Down Memory Lane

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Ever-expanding my skill set ranging from film making to nutrition.

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Jessie Kwok

Jessie Kwok

Ever-expanding my skill set ranging from film making to nutrition.

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