The True Story of What Happened to The Bloom

ANSWERS TO “WHAT HAPPENED TO EPISODE 4?” AND OTHER QUESTIONS

This is the story of what happened to The Bloom since the last episode. It’s intended for those of you for whom The Bloom was important in some way. Perhaps the series spoke deeply to you or resonated powerfully, or this story is just part of your life. Maybe you hosted a screening, or sponsored or donated or otherwise contributed. In some way, you were part of our journey. I haven’t communicated well (or much) of what happened since the original run and I owe you an explanation about some things. I’m sharing my story to bridge the gap, so you can see how things have evolved and why I’m still dedicated to seeing this through to its ultimate completion. 

This is going to get personal at times. Without knowing the true back story, it’s impossible to understand some of the choices that were made. While I’m generally a private person, I’m going to reveal some personal events relevant to how things unfolded.

We live in a culture where media is everywhere and we’re used to hitting play without a second thought. It takes just a few clicks and there it is. (Not so hard, is it?) So this is also the story of what it actually sometimes takes to realize a vision. It’s not always a straight line to success. Watching the creators of films and TV shows talking about their projects taking a decade to make, I fully get why it can take so long.

Especially things that are outside the box. And let’s face it, transformational festivals are pretty left-field for most people in the world. The vast majority have zero clues and there’s going to be an inevitable learning curve to gaining acceptance. But I’ve been part of a few cultural phenomena during my life that started underground and that have gone on to influence the mainstream. So this is also the story of the evolution of something which started quite humbly—a webseries based on a talk, launched with a modest crowdfunding campaign—into something with much greater potential to make an impact in the world.

So, if you would like to know everything, read on…

First things first: “What Happened To Episode 4?”

As you likely know, the webseries was originally planned for four parts, but only three episodes were released. So, what happened to the last episode?

Several circumstances converged to derail the final episode of the webseries. The original catalyst was my father’s death from cancer, which happened just a few days after releasing the third episode. Shortly after getting the call from my mom, I was on my way back to my hometown (Vancouver, BC) with a couple of hastily-packed suitcases.

My dad’s death hit me pretty hard. Surprisingly hard given our mixed relationship—I’d felt unseen by him my adult life and he felt like I was wasting my talents on my unconventional path. When I was a younger activist for a decade, we would also argue often and fiercely about political views.

My life was centered around community and movements for social change, not family or career or the normal things that most people orient their lives around. And so it was as I worked on finishing our third episode when he was diagnosed with bladder cancer, just two-and-a-half months before he passed. In particular, having been for a prolonged period in the US, I was concerned about my ability to return should I go to Canada for a visit.

To be fair, I also didn’t think he was going to die. As the most determined (read: stubborn) person I knew and having already survived prostate cancer, he was intent on beating the diagnosis. I believed him. In the end, his deterioration was fast and by the time my mom called to tell me to wrap up my affairs and return, he passed the next morning.

It was only then that the consequences of my choice to stay and finish the episode really hit home. Despite our differences, I had denied my one-and-only father the opportunity to say goodbye—to say what needed to be said—and to be there for his transition from this life. And there was no walking back this choice. It sparked a powerful grief and since then it’s been a long process of coming to terms with this sacrifice.

After helping with the funeral and family affairs and letting the dust settle in Vancouver, I went to return to the US. Here, my earlier concerns proved to be justified. At the border, they found my association with The Bloom online. I was interrogated for five hours and grilled for an admission that I was working in the U.S. illegally. Ultimately, I was allowed to withdraw my application for entry without being banned or officially sanctioned, but I was now flagged and warned I would most likely need a work visa to return.

I haven’t revealed this until now because of the delicate nature of my immigration status. But without being able to return state-side, the final episode was effectively derailed. We had been documenting for all episodes simultaneously and gathered a lot of strong material, but there was still a lot of dedicated filming needed to make a coherent episode. With the bulk of it happening in the US and the themes getting progressively deeper (ie. more specific to find), being denied this access was crippling.

While I have managed to wrangle my way across for a couple of brief visits since then, the door has otherwise been shut. I retained an immigration lawyer to determine how to meet the requirements, but haven’t been successful yet. For any of my American peeps who may have wondered, “Where did Jeet-Kei go? I used to see him everywhere and then he just seemed to disappear.” Well, this is what happened. I just haven’t posted about it anywhere.

However, there was a bigger shadow hanging over the project. The Bloom had a deeper issue that would have endangered the production of the last episode regardless of these circumstances bringing things to a head.

  • Jessica D says:

    Thank you for sharing this deeply personal journey Jeet-Kei, it sounds like quite the rollercoaster. I am glad you followed your gut to ensure the story stays authentic, and can’t wait to see the outcome.

  • Samuel Newton says:

    Thank you for sharing your challenges Jeet-Kei. My father also passed away this past spring to cancer very suddenly and we lost my wife Leah’s mom to cancer last fall after many months of struggle. We did wonder where episode 4 went… we were left wanting so much more and also so very grateful far how much was already given. The Bloom is a gift and your dedication to documenting such a profoundly important historical event as it is unfolding across these many decades is remarkable. We are always behind you and it is known that all is ebb and flow… may your sails be full once again!

    • Jeet-Kei Leung says:

      Thank you so much, Samuel. I’m very sorry to hear about your & Leah’s losses. It’s a crazy epidemic, inextricably linked to how we live today in contemporary society… Thank you for your kind words and affirmative energy. Very much appreciate feeling your support and incredibly excited to see this fully realized. This is the right time… It’s been quite a few years since that trip to the desert we all took, hey? Still, the journey continues… Big love and the best to you both!

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