February is Black History Month. We’d like to take this time to share about some documentaries that explore the intersectionality–both tension and collaboration–between Asian and Black communities. Some of these are even available for distribution through CAAM, and some can be streamed online. Read on to find out more…
Blurring the Color Line
Directed and produced by Crystal Kwok and produced by Daniel Wu
Asians were allowed to enroll in white schools, but was this simply an oversight? Where did the Chinese fit in the segregated South? Where did the Chinese sit on buses during Jim Crow? In this CAAM-funded documentary (and CAAMFest40 selection) filmmaker Crystal Kwok raises these very questions to discover how her grandmother and her family navigated these racial tensions after opening a Chinese grocery store in the South. Influenced by the Black Lives Matter and anti-Asian Hate movements of the present, these nuanced conversations about the past lend more than just insights into American history.
In Search of Bengali Harlem
Directed by Alaudin Ullah, Vivek Bald and produced by Susannah Ludwig
Actor Alaudin Ullah has been typecast throughout his career, but relates more to a typical New Yorker than his Bangladeshi Muslim parents. Upon realizing he only ever saw them as stereotypes, Alaudin decides to visit the areas where his parents grew up. In this CAAMFest40 selection, he unearths a lost history in which South Asian Muslims, African Americans, and Puerto Ricans forged an extraordinary community.
The Neutral Ground
Directed by CJ Hunt and produced by Darcy McKinnon
The Neutral Ground documents New Orleans’ fight over monuments and America’s troubled romance with the Lost Cause. In 2015, director CJ Hunt (who is Black and Filipino) was filming the New Orleans City Council’s vote to remove four confederate monuments. But when that removal is halted by death threats, CJ sets out to understand why a losing army from 1865 still holds so much power in America.
Stream The Neutral Ground on PBS
Finding Samuel Lowe
Directed and produced by Jeanette Kong
Three successful black siblings from Harlem discover their heritage by searching for clues about their long-lost Chinese grandfather, Samuel Lowe.
Retired NBC Universal executive (and CAAM board member) Paula Williams Madison and her brothers, Elrick and Howard Williams, were raised in Harlem by their Chinese Jamaican mother, Nell Vera Lowe. Nell encouraged them to realize the rags-to-riches American dream, resulting in their growth from welfare recipients to wealthy entrepreneurs. In order to fulfill a promise to their mother to connect to her estranged father’s people, they embark on a journey to uncover their ancestral roots. At its heart, this is a story about familial love and devotion that transcends race, space and time.
Watch Finding Samuel Lowe on Amazon, Apple TV, or YouTube.
Films available through CAAM Distribution
Filmmaker Michael Cho investigates his own family history and tragedy as he explores the Black/Korean conflict in the inner city as illuminated by the Los Angeles uprisings of 1992. The murder of his uncle in Detroit forces Cho to take a close look at his family’s own experiences as Korean American merchants. In L.A., he captures the stories of everyday Korean and African Americans as they shop in the mall. Returning to his hometown of Detroit, Cho lets local community members and relatives tell their own stories about race relations – a Detroit poet, an Amerasian brother and sister, and the daughter of the slain uncle. Another America is revealed, one where dreams have fallen short and where this country’s racism and violence continue unchecked. This film is available through CAAM for purchase or rental to individuals as well as colleges or institutions.
Directed by Joyce Lee
A Chinese American woman is confronted by two African American men while riding a commuter train. Their verbal exchange first shows the tensions between two cultures, then reveals thought-provoking possibilities for human relationships. This is an excellent short narrative to elicit discussions about communications between peoples of color, inter-ethnic understanding and stereotypes. Foreign Talk is available through CAAM distribution for colleges and institutions
Yuri Kochiyama: Passion for Justice
Directed by Rea Tajiri and Pat Saunders
From directors Rea Tajiri and Pat Saunders, Yuri Kochiyama: Passion for Justice chronicles the inspiring collaboration between the legendary activist and the Black community to work for social justice and change. This film is available through CAAM for colleges and institutions.
Check out some of these selections to learn more about the history of intersectionality between the Asian and Black communities.