Sentenced Home, Punching at the Sun, Grassroots Rising...

March 20, 2006

I think another factor is that a lot of documentaries aren't shown elsewhere. Because I'm not directly involved with justice work, I feel like I have to catch these films here. I watch them for my own education.

Oh yeah, I've been bringing my mom to these films too. She's visiting this week, and I thought, what better way for mother/daughter bonding than over Asian American films about deportation, racism, and overall injustices? Apparently, I am not the only one with this idea, 'cause yesterday at Grassroots Rising I saw someone I knew, who'd brought her father (go dads!), and one of the filmmakers brought his dad to the screening, but I guess that's a little different.

Anyway, like I said, yesterday we watched Grassroots Rising. They also showed two shorter documentaries, Dastaar: Defending Sikh Identity and Whose Children Are These? I think out of all the film programs I've seen, this one is one of the best - if not the best - not only because the documentaries are well-made, but because they are timely and explore/expose important issues. The theatre was mostly full, but of course certainly not as packed as the crowd for opening night at Americanese. The theatre itself was much smaller than the Castro.

On Saturday we watched Sentenced Home about Cambodian Americans who've been deported. After we watched the film, I think my mother said something to my friend along the lines of, "something should be done about this." The film says 1,500 Cambodian Americans are awaiting deportation, and many have been deported already.

I think what all films were good at showing, which I am not doing a good job of, is showing how all of this affects families. If you just look objectively at data - say, 1,500, we might think, well, that's not a lot of people compared to ___. But that shouldn't matter. And especially in tight-knit communities, things tend to have a much larger impact on the community. It's 1,500 people, but think about how that impacts all the friends, relatives, families. All torn apart (again).

Same with Whose Children Are These?, about the special registration after 9/11 (83,000 men registered, 14,000 detained, all are men - just thinking about what that does to families hurts). None were found to be terrorists, but many were still deported for technical reasons, like not having their immigration papers in order. What?

Dastaar is about how Sikhs have suffered every single time there was anything terrorist-related news in the world, for the last 20 or so years or even longer. Beyond the "Sikhs are not Muslims" reasoning, it's just really messed up. So the film explores a little bit about what Sikhism means and why people wear the dastaar (turban). They juxtaposed that with images of bin Laden and Hussein. The reasoning is simplistic but makes a lot of sense: if the only images we see of people wearing turbans are those two, then we might associate turbans with terrorists. And for people who've suffered harassment and violence as a result of this, they don't need any intellectualizing of the issue. It's real.

The only non-documentary in the list above is Punching at the Sun, which feels somewhat like a documentary. I blown away with the writing/storytelling and acting. There's already another discussion of this film elsewhere on our blog, so I'll just leave it at that.

Tonight my mom and I are going to watch China Blue. Then it's closing night for me.


Momo Chang

Senior Contributing Editor

Momo Chang is the Content Manager at the Center for Asian American Media, and freelances for magazines, online publications, and weeklies. Her writings focus on Asian American communities, communities of color, and youth culture. She is a former staff writer at the Oakland Tribune. Her stories range from uncovering working conditions in nail salons, to stories about “invisible minorities” like Tongan youth and Iu Mien farmers. She has freelances The New York Times, WIRED, and East Bay Express, among other publications.



that guy in that picture looks really sad =[and the documentaries are pretty cool to watch since youre basically watching a movie while you learn which, to me, is much better than listening to a monotone instructor.. >_>