North Carolina has the largest population of Montagnards outside of Southeast Asia, estimated at 20,000. The Montagnards are an ethnic group from Vietnam who were caught in the war in Southeast Asia and came to the U.S. as refugees. CAAM is proud to present This is My Home Now, which documents the lives of four Montagnard youths whose families have come to American in the past decade from Asia. They live in two worlds—that of their parents and grandparents, who lived in the highlands of Viet Nam but fled from government persecution for their Christian religion and desire for autonomy—and one of constant learning and adaptation to be Americans in North Carolina.
Filmmaker Mariah Dunn Kramer says one of the goals of the film was to highlight this population in North Carolina. She also wanted to include the voices of youth, who carry hope for the future despite the history of hardships for the Montagnard community. “They have a lot to say and can create change in the future,” she said. “You’ll hear a lot of hope and optimism from the youth.”
The half hour program also explores how Montagnards (a French colonial reference to “mountain people”) allied with U.S. Army Special Forces in the 1960’s and their coming to the safety of America starting in the 1980’s and continuing until recently. The transition is seen through the challenging lives of the families of the four teens, and viewers learn there are more Montagnards in North Carolina than anywhere outside of Asia, an estimated population nearing 20,000.
The film builds on an oral history project that involved 12 Montagnard teens in the Young Historians, Living Histories initiative, which was a 2013 collaboration of the Smithsonian Asian Pacific American Center, Smithsonian Affiliations, and CAAM.
Questions of self-identity, concerns about losing their cultural heritage, the role faith plays in forging ahead on a new life, and the remarkable kindness and support of those who are helping these new Americans to succeed make for a compelling story whose ending is still to be created.
The film premiered April 18, 2015 at the Greensboro Historical Museum. The documentary will air April 28, 2015 at 11 p.m. on UNC-TV in North Carolina and nationally on public TV in May. Check local listings.
Find out more about This is My Home Now.