By Usama Alshaibi
It’s impossible to lay low as an Arab in America today. If you look the part, you are suspicious by association. Terrorists could be anywhere. You’re compelled to defend yourself, your people or your religion. But why should you apologize for acts that have nothing to do with you? In AMERICAN ARAB, Iraqi-born director Usama Alshaibi takes a hard look at the contradictions of Arab identity in post-9/11 America, weaving his own life’s journey and “coming-of-Arab” experiences into the life stories of several unique subjects. From Chicago to small towns in Illinois and Iowa, Usama explores the values, passions and hopes of his fellow Arab-Americans as he struggles to make peace with the contradictions of his chosen homeland.
By Ellie Lee
Film Festival 2012 (READY, SET, PITCH! Panel Participant), Funded 2012
America, 2018 – Unable to pay the $10 trillion it owes to China, the U.S. comes up with a plan to erase the debt: It gives China the state of California. “Chinafornia” is born, and Chinese Vice Premier Jidong Chen is placed in charge. It will be up to Chen—who has studied California through meticulous viewings of Baywatch—to manage the takeover and the chaos that follows. And it will be up to reporter Jasper Davenport, “America’s Most Watched & Most Sexy Newsman,” to force Mr. Chen to answer to the people of Chinafornia. Can Chinese determination and American creativity combine to build a better world? Or will Chinese stubbornness and American bone-headedness form the perfect cocktail for a state even more screwed up than California already is?
By Bao Nguyen
EMPLOYED IDENTITY explores the phenomenon of Vietnamese abroad returning to Vietnam, the country of their parents’ birth, to find both themselves and successful careers. Today, many of these Vietnamese abroad, or “Viet Kieu,” are leaving the recessive economies of their adopted homelands to seek new opportunities in the growing economy of Vietnam. This move allows them to reconnect with their “homeland” while connecting them to relatives that never immigrated to America. The series touches upon a range of topics such as identity, unemployment, minority portrayal in entertainment, familial relationships, and the emerging art and film scene in Vietnam.
VERSES IN EXILE
By Anida Ali and Masahiro Sugano
VERSES IN EXILE paints a portrait of an uncompromised man who spent his entire life locked away in the American prison complex, only to find freedom physically and creatively in Cambodia—ironically, where he was forced into exile. Kosal Khiev is one of 397,000 people deported from America in 2011. VERSES IN EXILE traces his journey from prisoner in America to world-class poet in Cambodia. This creative web series captures Kosal’s indelible struggle to answer the question, “How do you survive when you belong nowhere?” Exiled to a country his family fled, Kosal stands alone as he steps into freedom.
AMERICAN REVOLUTIONARY: THE EVOLUTION OF GRACE LEE BOGGS
By Grace Lee
AMERICAN REVOLUTIONARY: THE EVOLUTION OF GRACE LEE BOGGS is a documentary about a 96-year-old Chinese-American philosopher in Detroit who has devoted her life to the next American revolution and is a lightning rod for scholars, activists, artists and youth inspired to probe these questions as well. The film tracks her political and private evolution and shows how she emerged with a radically simple philosophy: revolution is not an act of aggression, but a series of living conversations. As the story unfolds, we see Grace’s ideas materialize and how, through grassroots leadership, Detroit becomes a laboratory for national change.
BREATHIN’: THE EDDIE ZHENG STORY
By Ben Wang (James T. Yee Fellowship Project)
After serving over 20 years behind bars for a robbery he committed at age 16, Chinese American community leader Eddy Zheng now faces deportation to China. Released from prison in 2007, Eddy has dedicated his life to preventing youth violence and delinquency through his work at many San Francisco Bay Area programs and organizations. BREATHIN’: THE EDDY ZHENG STORY is a documentary about one of the most visible Asian American leaders to emerge from the prison system. Providing a complex and honest portrayal of its subject, the film highlights a critical human rights issue facing the U.S. today: the alarming increase of Asian immigrants and refugees being incarcerated and deported.
HAFU: A FILM ABOUT THE EXPERIENCES OF MIXED-RACE JAPANESE LIVING IN JAPAN
By Megumi Nishikura
With an ever-increasing movement of people between places in this transnational age, there is a mounting number of mixed-race people in Japan—some visible, others not. HAFU is the unfolding journey of discovery into the intricacies of mixed-race Japanese and their multicultural experience in modern-day Japan. The film follows five “hafus”—the Japanese term for people who are half-Japanese—who by default of living in Japan are forced to explore what it means to be multiracial and multicultural in a nation that proudly proclaims itself as mono-ethnic. For some hafus, Japan is the only home they know. For others, living in Japan is an entirely new experience, and yet others are caught somewhere between two worlds. Ultimately, this film is the universal story of individuals longing to be accepted for who they are.
By Esy Casey (James T. Yee Fellowship Project)
JEEPNEY visualizes the richly diverse cultural and social climate of the Philippines through its most popular form of mass transportation: vividly decorated ex-WWII military jeeps. Unlike mass transportation in many parts of the world, jeepneys are not a government service but are individually operated by the drivers, who manifest their identity, values and dreams in its painting and decoration. The stories of a jeepney driver, artist and passenger take place amidst nationwide protest against oil price hikes that pressure drivers to work overseas to earn a living. Lavishly shot and cut to the rhythm of the streets, JEEPNEY provides an enticing vehicle through which the rippling effects of globalization can be felt.
MRS. JUDO: BE STRONG, BE GENTLE, BE BEAUTIFUL
By Yuriko Romer
Film Festival 2012, Funded 2011
Using rare archival footage, intimate interviews and plenty of on-the-mat action, director Yuriko Gamo Romer eloquently brings to life the inspiring story of a remarkable woman and judo master. At a time when women went from childhood home to wife and homemaker, Keiko Fukuda made an unpopular choice and took a different path, saying, “This [Judo] was my marriage…this is when my life destiny was set.” MRS. JUDO: BE STRONG, BE GENTLE, BE BEAUTIFUL beautifully showcases the life of Sensei Fukuda, presenting her as not only a pioneer for women but as an inspiration to us all.
OUTLAWED IN PAKISTAN
By Habiba Nosheen
In parts of Pakistan today, women are perceived as men’s property and are believed to embody the honor of their families. Local tribal assemblies often declare a woman kari, meaning “black female” or “tainted woman,” when she marries someone of her own will or rumors have spread of a woman acting “dishonorably.” To restore the family’s honor, the family or tribe must kill these women. OUTLAWED IN PAKISTAN is a documentary about the deeply entrenched tradition of honor killings in Pakistan. The film follows two strong women who narrowly escaped death at the hands of their families and are now struggling to find justice and begin new lives.
TWO CHILDREN OF THE RED MOSQUE
By Hemal Trivedi
Amid suicide bombings and U.S. drone attacks in northwestern Pakistan, 12-year-olds Zarina and Talha are pursuing different dreams. After attending madrassahs of the Red Mosque, they make different choices that promise to define their adult lives. Zarina recently escaped the madrassah, and her struggle to attend secular school and avoid marriage stands opposed to Talha’s journey over the next two years. Their stories personalize the hard choices facing modern Pakistanis living in rural areas, where ongoing ideological battles between fundamentalist and moderate Muslims are shaping Pakistan’s future.
AMERICA BY THE NUMBERS WITH MARIA HINOJOSA: CLARKSTON, GEORGIA
By Maria Hinojosa and Martha Spanninger
Broadcast 2012, Funded 2010
Produced and hosted by award-winning investigative journalist Maria Hinojosa, AMERICA BY THE NUMBERS visits one of the country’s most surprisingly diverse communities. A small town of 7,500 people that was 90 percent white in the 1980s, Clarkston is now home to residents from more than 40 countries who speak more than 60 languages and dialects; the white population today is less than 14 percent. This special explores lessons about democracy and coexistence that a divided nation can learn from its newest citizens.
What would you do if you found out that your child is gay? Having lost the opportunity to come out to her own mother, an Indian lesbian filmmaker, now living in the US, travels across India to meet with parents of other gay and lesbian South Asians. I AM is a personal and revealing film that journeys to a country where being gay was until very recently a criminal and punishable offence. With daring determination and humor, parents in India share untold stories of their gay and lesbian children that have thus far remained in the realm of secrecy and silence. I AM is an innovative film that takes more than simply creative risks. The story and characters might be local, but it reflects a challenge that is facing a global community. It is a film about a contemporary and relevant social justice issue that questions assumptions and brings new international dialogue around sexuality and human rights.
THE SPACE IN BACK OF YOU
This documentary examines the life of Suzushi Hanayagi, a remarkable dancer and creative partner to one of the greatest minds in the performing arts, director Robert Wilson who has called Suzushi ‚Äúmy teacher.‚Äù Confined now to a retirement home in Osaka, spending most of her time in a wheelchair, Ms. Hanayagi has begun to lose all memory of her long career as an acclaimed classical and modern dancer. Even in stillness she is dancing, as she said during a recent visit, ‚Äúdancing in my mind.‚ÄùHanayagi‚Äôs influence on Wilson cannot be underestimated. His trademark vocabulary of stage movement, including gestures and carefully choreographed movements became fully realized through Suzushi‚Äôs collaboration. In many ways, their language was the same despite tremendously different backgrounds and personal styles. Each artist emerged from the theater movements of the 1960‚Äôs to create dynamic new works in their own style. Wilson especially became an international theater sensation with epic works like Einstein on the Beach, the CIVIL wars, and Death, Destruction and Detroit. But like many great talents, Suzushi remained more in the background, her influence, however great, has yet to be fully recognized.
TALES OF THE WARIA
At a time when transgender communities around the world are largely ignored or misrepresented in the media, the 60-minute documentary video TALES OF THE WARIA intimately explores how the members of one such community confront issues of love, family, and faith. Traveling to Indonesia, the world‚Äôs most populous Muslim country, the film focuses on the waria, biological men who identify as women. Though Indonesia‚Äôs tolerant form of Islam permits the waria to live openly and without fear of physical harm, they remain a marginalized community whose life choices are often constrained in significant and sometimes tragic ways. TALES OF THE WARIA interweaves the stories of several waria who encounter unique obstacles on their search for love. Suharni‚Äôs seemingly perfect relationship with her boyfriend is tested when she leaves town to find work. Mami Ria, leader of the waria, struggles to revive her 18-year relationship with a police officer. ‚ÄúEx-waria‚Äù Ari leads a quiet life with his wife and two kids, but still dreams of the past when he had long hair and danced with men. Guiding us through these stories is Tiara, a glamorous and entertaining waria who secretly harbors her own heartache. Shot over several years with waria serving as advisors and film crew members, the film provides unprecedented access to a community that dares to live differently from the norm, despite what consequences may await them. Through their emotional journeys, our notions of love, gender, and Islam are forever changed.
A group of suburban senior citizens, led by a young entrepreneur with no prior military experience, seeks to amass an arsenal of AK-47s and Stinger missiles, hire mercenaries, and take over a foreign country. This may sound like a Hollywood thriller, but its true. Together with nine other Hmong-Americans, 35-year-old Lo Cha Thao dreamt of launching a coup in Laos to save relatives still being hunted by the Communist regime, long after the end of the Vietnam War. He called the plan Operation Popcorn, but his vision of being a hero fell apart before it ever began, as Lo and his co-conspirators were arrested as part of an FBI undercover sting. Now branded terrorists, they face a life sentence in prison. OPERATION POPCORN tells Los story as the trial unfolds and the community comes to grips with what it means. The film interweaves Los personal saga with an account of the plot, its historical context, and its present-day impact on the Hmong both here in America and in Laos. A potent mixture of in-the-moment drama, archival sequences, and animation, the film is an eye-opening tale of idealism gone awryand how the ghosts of one refugee community continue to haunt it. OPERATION POPCORN is a compelling, dramatic and sometimes painful look at a man trying to be worthy of elders who are war survivors and heroes. Through Lo, the film explores the price many refugees pay for living the American dreamunspeakable guilt, knowing the tragedy continues for those remaining in the home country.
SEEKING ASIAN FEMAIE
Every year thousands of American men go to China to find a bride. Seeking Asian Female is a one-hour documentary that explores this contemporary social phenomenon through an unusual personal story. As a Chinese American woman who was raised believing true love is colorblind, I set out to explore why so many Western men desire Asian women. I follow Steven, an older white man from California obsessed with finding a young Chinese wife. Over the Internet, Steven meets Sandy a young woman from Anhui, China, who agrees to move to the US to be his fiancé. The minute she steps foot on American soil, fantasy and reality collide, as all three of us – Steven, Sandy and myself ‚Äì are forced to confront the assumptions and judgments we hold of one another. As I watch whether this improbable union will succeed ‚Äì becoming their reluctant translator and marriage counselor behind the lens ‚Äì I try to determine, could it possibly be love? Seeking Asian Female is an unusual modern love story that examines how stereotype and expectation impact romance and relationship. It offers a rare glimpse into the Asian immigrant experience upon first arrival in America and an up-close view of a new marriage developing in the face of daunting cultural barriers. In a world where online communications are eroding geographic boundaries, the story reflects the changing relationship between China and America, and offers a new definition of what it means to be American, Chinese, and Chinese American today.
Hein S. Seok
There are countless North Korean defectors living in China, most of them in secret. If caught by the Chinese police, they are deported to North Korea where they are politically persecuted. This makes it difficult to determine the exact number of North Korean defectors. According to some experts it may be anywhere from 200 thousand to 1 million. Some defectors manage to escape to Southeast Asian countries where they find refuge at South Korean embassies. The South Korean government grants them citizenship and offers settlement aid. As of early 2010, 20 thousand North Korean defectors have officially entered South Korea. Young-soon Kim escaped North Korea in 2002 when she was 17 years old. She lived in hiding in China and entered South Korea in 2007 after receiving citizenship. The film crew started following her in June 2007, right before her dangerous attempt to leave China, until the present. Young-soon managed to reach to South Korea. But her older sister, Eun-ja, was discovered by the Chinese police and deported to North Korea. Young-soon tried desperately to smuggle her sister out of the country again. But then came the news that Eunja had been taken away to a prison for political criminals. It was impossible to tell whether she was dead or alive. Young-soon is currently trying to at least save her sister’s daughter.
THE MOSUO SISTER
Two spirited daughters from China’s last remaining matriarchal ethnic minority are thrust into the worldwide economic downturn when they lose the only jobs they’ve ever known. Left with few options, Jua Ma and La Tsuo leave Beijing for home, a remote village in the foothills of the Himalayas. But home is no longer what it was, as growing exposure to the modern world irreparably changes the provocative traditions the Mosuo have built around their belief that marriage is an attack on the family. Determined to keep their mother and siblings out of poverty, one sister sacrifices her dream of an education and stays home to farm, while the other leaves to try her luck in the city. From Lijiang to Chengdu, Jua Ma’s interactions with rich Chinese businessmen, Tibetan gangsters and fledgling pop stars lead her on a precarious path that pits her hopes against bitter realities. An intimate portrait that intertwines the two sisters stories during a pivotal a year and a half in their lives, the film will explore how the particulars of the sisters journeys can highlight larger issues and truths. In the process, the film will serve as a rare window into a story that is at once a telling tale of the human cost of the global financial crisis and a timely snapshot of a minority culture whose singular customs are being threatened by the very forces that are lifting its people out of poverty.
GIVE UP TOMORROW
Marty Syjuco& Michael
Give Up Tomorrow is a documentary feature film that tells the story of a high-profile miscarriage of justice and its unfolding international repercussions. Simultaneously a murder-mystery and an exposé of endemic corruption in the Philippines today, Give Up Tomorrow looks intimately at the case of Paco Larrañaga, a young student wrongfully convicted of killing two sisters on the provincial Filipino island of Cebu. Capturing the rapacious media circus surrounding the trial, Give Up Tomorrow reveals the extraordinary judicial violations that resulted in Paco’s death sentence and spiraling human rights abuses in the post Marcos era. Secret filming by Paco from his cell in Bilibid Prison, Manila, exposes the appalling conditions of a prison system stretched to breaking point. Spanning over a decade, Give Up Tomorrow charts how Paco’s family and friends’ tireless campaigning culminated in timely intervention by the international human-rights community, saving not only Paco’s life, but hundreds of others as the death penalty in the Philippines was abolished. Introducing American and world audiences to the fragile democracy of a former US colony, Give Up Tomorrow points to a huge crisis in the Philippine criminal justice system, a state of affairs that puts everyone who lives there at constant risk.
SOMEONE ELSE’S WAR
The forces of globalization have sent Asian workers all over the world in search of a better life. Asian migrants cross continents and oceans for the chance at a new life, but now, they’ve crossed a new frontier, into the war in Iraq. Several years into the war, few Americans realize that most of the menial labor on military bases in Iraq isn’t being done by Americans, and it’s not being done by Iraqis either. Instead, the work has been outsourced to an army of 35,000 low-wage workers from the Philippines, India, Sri Lanka, and Nepal. The company behind the outsourcing is Halliburton. SOMEONE ELSE’S WAR is the first documentary to examine this new underclass of American warfare. Focusing on Filipino workers who ended up in Iraq, the film provides an intimate look into the forces of poverty and desperation that persuade workers to risk their lives for the chance at a better life.
By Marissa Aroy
Delano Manongs tells the unknown story of a group of Filipino farm workers who toiled under the yoke of racism for decades, then rose up as old men to fight for fair wages and humane work conditions. The Manongs instigated one of the finest hours of the American labor movement, the Great Grape Strike of 1965, which led to the formation of the internationally recognized United Farm Workers Union and made Cesar Chavez a household name.
HIGH TECH, LOW LIFE
By Stephen Maing
Inspired by a search for truth and the potential for fame, a young blogger from Hunan province challenges the boundaries of free speech by reporting on censored news stories in various cities throughout China while an older blogger from Beijing rides his bicycle throughout the mainland documenting the struggles
of villagers deep within China’s countryside. HIGH TECH, LOW LIFE captures the untold story of two of China’s first citizen reporters and the achievements of a fearless new digital generation.
MADE IN INDIA
By Rebecca Haimowitz & Vaishali Sinai
Made In India is about the human experiences behind the phenomena of “outsourcing” surrogate mothers to India. The film looks at couples across the US whose struggle with infertility has led them to seek a surrogate mother to carry their child and the surrogates who choose to carry their fetuses for a fee. What unfolds is a complicated clash of families in crisis, reproductive technology and outsourcing played out across cultures and countries.
NINOY AQUINO & THE RISE OF PEOPLE POWER
By Tom Coffman
The Philippines’ Benigno Aquino, from a stance of defending constitutional government against martial law, was subjected to eight years in prison. In the process he evolved from a “Boy Wonder” politico into a deeply thoughtful and effective practitioner of nonviolent resistance. At a time when the vast majority of people everywhere were saddled with dictatorships, he became the archetype for using nonviolence as the method for driving out national dictators and strengthening the cause of constitutional government.
OAK PARK STORY
By Valerie Soe
Oak Park Story recounts the journeys of three families who come to live at a low-income apartment complex in Oakland, California, encountering daily life in America’s underclass. Parents raised their children amidst drug dealing, gang violence and prostitution. Yet their worst problem was their landlord, who raised rents even when El Nino rains flooded their units. They join forces to sue their landlord and the film follows their struggle for justice.
ONE IN A BILLION
By Geeta Patel
One in a Billion humanizes the common and quiet struggle of millions of first-generation Americans who struggle with the idea of not marrying within one’s traditional religion and culture. The film takes us inside the world of the Indian-American semi-arranged marriage industry and addresses questions at the heart of the American immigrant experience: is ‘cultural sameness’ a prerequisite to a good marriage, cultural preservation, and true love?
By Nandini Sikand
Soma Girls is a half-hour documentary short which explores the lives of several girls (ages 6 to 17) who live in a home in Kolkata, India. Their mothers live and work in Kalighat, one of the largest red light districts in the city. Each girl is painfully aware of their individual circumstances but yet they play, dance and study and speak of wanting to grow up, to become independent and find a way to get their mothers out of the trade.
WO AI NI (I LOVE YOU) MOMMY (previously White Stork Hotel)
By Stephanie Wang-Breal
For the past eight years, China has been the leading country for U.S. international adoptions. Wo Ai Ni (I Love You) Mommy is a 60-minute documentary about Chinese adopted girls, their American adoptive families and the Chinese political and cultural pressures that led to their abandonment. The characters and events in this story challenge our traditional notions of family, culture and race.
XMAS WITHOUT CHINA
By Tom Xia
News reports slamming China drove proud immigrant Tom Xia to challenge his American neighbors to do Christmas without Chinese goods. The Joneses down the street accept eagerly. What follows is a humorous and surprising intercultural exchange that reveals the misunderstandings, bravado and yearnings of Americans in a world of great change and shifting identities.