Where Are They Now? Kelly Saeteurn

Remember that documentary Kelly Loves Tony, by Spencer Nakasako? Watch the full documentary on PBS.org now through July 15.

She’s a straight-A student; he’s trying to leave gang life behind. A camcorder becomes both witness and confidante for these markedly singular yet utterly typical teens as they self-document the trials of growing up too fast and too soon in urban America. Emmy award-winning filmmaker Spencer Nakasako deftly guides this video diary of a young Southeast Asian couple wrestling with the demands of parenting, love, dreams and disillusionment in the nebulous cultural zone between first and second generation immigrant life. – PBS.org

When we first meet Kelly (Kane Ian “Kelly” Saeteurn), she is 17 years-old and is graduating from high school.

Kelly Saeteurn graduation1

Saeteurn graduates from high school. She’s a good student and wants to go to college.

Kelly is engaged to her boyfriend, Nai “Tony” Saelio. Kelly says this about the film today: “It’s what’s really happening. It’s real. Teenage pregnancy is real. The gang life is real. Living in the struggle is real.”

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“I’m the happiest man to have her,” says a teenaged Tony in the documentary.

Kelly is really focused on going to college while also raising a baby.

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Saeteurn with her baby.

Their families are Iu Mien refugees who live in Oakland. Kelly was born in a Thai refugee camp, and her parents are from Laos. Kelly lived with her mom and siblings in Oakland.

Kelly Saeteurn postpartum tea

Kelly’s mom tries to get her to drink postpartum ginger tea. “Nuh uh. I don’t want it.”

She struggles balancing being a new mom, going to college and being a good daughter-in-law and girlfriend.

“A load. No, ten loads of laundry. Dirty laundry. And all piled up and I have to finish it. In two hours,” Kelly says in the documentary during a particularly stressful time.

“A load. No, ten loads of laundry. Dirty laundry. And all piled up and I have to finish it. In two hours,” Kelly says in the documentary during a particularly stressful time.

CAAM produced the film some 16 years ago (back when we were NAATA).

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Kelly back in the ’90s.

Kelly is all grown up now.

Kelly Saeteurn today

She didn’t finish college but doesn’t dwell on it now. “As far as my job goes, for me, there’s no need for college degree because work right now is more important. And actually getting my kids to college.”

Kelly has worked at a dentist office, then as a real estate agent. She currently works for an investment firm.

The kids are grown too…

Kelly Saeteurn Andrew

Baby Andrew.

Andrew, their first-born, is 18 years old today.

Kelly Saeteurn Andrew grown

Andrew now.

…Jennifer was in utero in the documentary…

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Jennifer is 17 and will be attending college in the fall.

Tony and Kelly are no longer together. Tony couldn’t be reached for an interview.

“Some things don’t work out,” Kelly says in the film. “You know, the way that you want it to. I think it’s a part of growing up and everything. I had all these plans, you know, like getting married, going to school. And I still want to get them all straightened out, but it’s like one step at a time, you know?” Later, she says, “I can’t change the past, but I could change the future.”

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- Momo Chang

Note: After July 15, the film is available here.

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