Item is a documentary film about the construction of the Dr. Sun Yat-Sen Classical Chinese Gardens. It is divided into two sections: the first section is a discussion of the classical Chinese gardens in Suzhou while the second, much longer, section discusses the construction of the gardens in Vancouver. It uses footage filmed during the construction process, descriptive narration, and short segments of an interview with Joe Wai, one of the project architects.
The documentary opens with narration about the importance of water to the region and the history of the region, illustrated with footage of boating and agricultural life. The city of Suzhou is introduced with narrated scenes of the city, canals, and tourist destinations. Next the film explores a few of Suzhou’s famous gardens. The gardens discussed are: The Master of Fish Nets Garden, The Humble Administrator’s Garden, Lion Grove Garden, and The Lingering Garden. The film then concludes this section with a discussion of design elements and the Taoist elements of each feature.
The film then moves to Vancouver, beginning with footage of famous city landmarks and city views (e.g. Lions Gate Bridge, Canada Place, the Skytrain) with an emphasis on the modern technological nature of the city. Street scenes of Chinatown are the backdrop to a discussion of the history of Chinese people in Canada, the development of the Chinese Cultural center, and the pre-construction process of getting the approval and funding to build the garden. Discussion of the construction of the garden focuses on the Suzhou artisans who built the garden according to traditional means, emphasising the use of traditional tools, building methods, and materials. This is illustrated with footage of moving the Lake Tai rocks by hand and placing them into position.
Tthe film talks about the artisans, with scenes of the builders socialising at a banquet, singing, and playing table tennis. The documentary then focuses on the finishing touches and role they play in the finished garden. The documentary concludes with the official opening ceremony with dignitaries and the artisans followed by footage of the completed garden.