A Village Called Versailles

September 2, 2008

"Village" continues the story after returning to Versailles. Soon after resettling, the Vietnamese American community realized that the city planned on dumping toxic waste into a landfill right next to their homes. What ensued is an ongoing battle with the city. The rough cut shows some inspiring images of hundreds of Vietnamese Americans, young and old, storming city hall meetings. They succeeded in closing down the landfill, though it seems like the city still has not cleaned what was already dumped (background: after Katrina, there were some 22 million tons of trash, according to the film). Basically, it seems like the large community of Vietnamese Americans was largely invisible to the local government. They thought they could just dump waste right next where they lived and no one would say anything -- but that's not what happened.

What is inspiring is that the community united and stepped up. They found their voice. Though largely told as a story of a model minority community, hopefully "Versailles" will paint a fuller picture.

On a sidenote, I interviewed Father Vien Nguyen on the phone soon after Katrina hit, as he was gathering Vietnamese American families to resettle in Versailles. He is (as you can see in the film), a charismatic leader. In the same article, I interviewed Mimi Nguyen, who is also featured in the film. She lived in Oakland, CA at the time, but after volunteering as a translator and advocate during and right after Katrina, she moved there and now is an aide to a city councilmember in New Orleans. 


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.