Min Zhou - Journalist, Documentarian
May is Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month. CEAS will observe this month, beginning with the screening of “Men of Iron and the Golden Spike” and “Going Home.”
The screening of ”Men of Iron and the Golden Spike,” a symphonic oratorio, will be followed by “Going Home” and then a discussion between Min Zhou and Wei Su, Senior Lector in Chinese, Yale University.
Many Americans regard the first Transcontinental Railroad, built between 1863-1869, as one of the most important and daring projects in 19th-century America. Often left out of the discussion of the Railroad’s history is the contribution of an estimated 15,000 to 20,000 Chinese workers. They were paid less than white workers but often had to toil in dangerous working conditions. Stanford University Professor Gordon Chang remarked, “Without the Chinese migrants, the Transcontinental Railroad would not have been possible.”
The film “Going Home” tells the story of 13 Chinese workers who participated in constructing the Transcontinental Railroad and discovering their remains in Carlin, Nevada, in 1996. After more than two decades of archaeological excavations, research, and exhibition, it was through the efforts of the Carlin community – both private citizens and city government – that these Chinese workers’ remains were finally reburied in the Carlin, and residents honored these Chinese workers as “the Oldest citizen of our town.”
Min Zhou is an award-winning journalist and filmmaker based in the San Francisco Bay Area. Min has been focused on telling Chinese American immigrants’ stories and bringing long-forgotten history to light. She has produced five short and feature documentary films and won national and international awards in the past seven years.
A Trilogy: The Builders of the Iron Road, a documentary about Chinese railroad workers, is Min’s first series of short documentary films of the history of the First Transcontinental Railroad. The trilogy includes three short documentary films: Crossing Donne Summit, End of the Rails, and Land of Luck. The trilogy spanned from the 1860s when Chinese workers crossed the Pacific Ocean to build the west portion of the First Transcontinental Railroad to 1945 when a descendant of a Chinese railroad worker volunteered himself to be a “Flying Tiger” pilot fighting in China during the World War II.
In collaboration with U Channel TV, the largest non-profit Chinese TV station in North America, Min produced The Black Spikes, a documentary film about Chinese railroad workers’ contribution to the transcontinental railroad. The film was shown in Utah during the national celebration of the 150th anniversary of driving Golden Spike, which completed the last link in the First Transcontinental Railroad at Promontory Summit in Utah.
Min’s fifth independent documentary, Going Home, tells a story about how the people in Carlin, a remote town in Nevada’s deep desert, welcomed back 13 Chinese railroad workers’ remains, which had been exiled for 22 years. Residents in Carlin honored these Chinese workers as “the Oldest citizen of our town.” Going Home has been invited to the screening on the opening nights of both the 2019 and 2020 Silicon Valley Asian Pacific Film Festival and won numerous awards nationwide.
Besides working as an independent filmmaker, Min is a journalist working with U Channel TV, the largest non-profit Chinese community TV station in North America, as a journalist starting in 2019. She is the director and producer of the short documentary films series program “Inside Silicon Valley.” In addition, she has covered many community events, from parents’ and students’ debates on sex education curriculum to whether a city should grant a permit to marijuana stores in the community. Min won the Excellent Interviewing Award (TV Station) from Northern California Chinese Media Association in 2018.
Min was one of the five visiting scholars the UC Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism admitted in 2011. Min was a contributing writer for top news magazines in China, like the Southern People Weekly. Her most compelling feature stories include the “California Lawyer” Approved in 125 years and The Black Spikes - A Tribute to the Chinese Workers of the Central Pacific Railway 150 Years Ago.