Monday, May 24, 2010

S. Leo Chiang's Documentary on the Mobilization of Vietnamese Community in Versailles

Updated: To listen to the 24 May 2010 edition of the Subversity show, click here: .

Irvine -- Hurricane Katrina, instead of just devastating the Vietnamese American community at the edge of New Orleans, galvanized the residents there into mobilizing against a potentially toxic dump site that the mayor imposed on them without consultation.

That mobilization - among young and old - members of the Vietnamese community, is well captured in a documentary by filmmaker S. Leo Chiang, "A Village Called Versailles" -- to air tomorrow on PBS stations nation-wide, as part of its Independent Lens series.

Earlier this month, the film screened at the Los Angeles Asian Pacific Film Festival, where it won the audience award.

Subversity, a KUCI public affairs program, will feature an interview with Director Chiang this afternoon, from 5-6 p.m., on KUCI, 88.9 FM in Orange County, simulcast via

See: film web site.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Laura Poitras' The Oath; Gilbert G. Gonzalez & Vivian Price's Harvest of Loneliness

Updated: To listen to the 17 May 2010 edition of the Subversity show, click here: .

The Oath

On today's edition of Subversity, a KUCI public affairs program, we interview the directors of two important documentaries. In the first half-hour, we talk with Laura Poitras, about her latest documentary, The Oath, which features Abu Jandal, Osama bin Laden's former bodguard; in the background in the film hovers Salim Hamdan, incarcerated at Guantanamo, the first man to face the controversial military tribunals, and who won at the U.S. Supreme Court only to see the rules changed in the middle of the "game".

Poitras' revealing documentary shows what attracted Abu Jandal, rehabilitated in Yemen's post-incarceration program -- it paid for his taxicab -- with Hamdan -- to join the jihad and Al-Queda. Hamdan, drawn to the charismatic Abu Jandal, went with him to Afghanistan, where Osama bin Laden invited the men to visit. The rest is history. The film also covers Hamdan's military trial, and Abu Jandal's cooperation with the FBI six days after 9/11 -- he was in prison in Yemen during 9/11.

Poitras' earlier film, My Country, My Country, about the U.S. occupation of Iraq, has been nominated for an OScar, Independent Spirit Award, and an Emmy. Her final film in this trilogy will focus on the 9/11 trials. She is currently working on the Guantanamo Project to collect documents and artifacts from Guantanamo Bay Prison.

The Oath opens in Los Angeles May 21, 2010.

Well of Loneliness: The Bracero Program

Mexican nationals in tomato harvest, Muri Ranch on Roberts Island, San Joaquin Valley.
Photograph published in: California Annual Farm Labor Report, 1951. Sacramento: State of California, Farm Placement Service. Part of Immigrant Lives in 'the O.C.' & Beyond exhibit at UCI Libraries in 2008-2009.

In our second half-hour, we talk with film directors Gilbert G. Gonzalez and Vivian Price. The former is Professor Emeritus at UCI's Chicano/Latino Studies Department, and the latter, who obtained her Ph.D at UCI, is a professor at CSU Dominguez-Hills in interdisciplinary studies who has also made other documentaries on women and labor.

The two academics co-directed Harvest of Loneliness, a searing indictment of the bracero program that brought Mexicans as contract labor to work on farms in the the U.S., creating havoc in their homeland, where they had left their wives and children to fend for themselves. Despite contracts that promised much more, the men were paid peanuts and never got the promised health benefits nor death benefits for those who died under contract. The documentary ends with an analysis of the negatives impact current globalization initiatives have had on the lives of Mexicans.

Harvest of Loneliness: The Bracero Program, makes its World Premiere Thusrday, May 20, 2010 at Humanities Instructional Building Romm 100, UC Irvine, as part of the Cosecha Laina series in the Latin American Film Festival, in association with the UCI Film and Video Center. A reception is at 6:15 p.m.; with screening at 7 p.m., with Q&A with the co-directors to follow. A film trailer is accessible via the film web site: Harvest of Loneliness.

We dedicate this show to the legacy of Tam Tran and Cinthya Felix, DREAM Act activists who tragically lost their lives in a car accident last Saturday.

Subversity airs from 5-6 p.m. on KUCI, 88.9 FM in Orange County, California, and is simulcast via The film directors are interviewed by show host Daniel C. Tsang.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

RIP: Tam Tran and Cinthya Felix, DREAM Act Activists

Hear both activists speak out on this video.

UPDATED May 16: Statement from Brown University's Daily Herald. Also, OC Weekly blog.

A sense of sadness fills me this evening finding out the tragic deaths of Tam Ngoc Tran, 27, and Cinthya Nathalie Felix Perez, 26, two activists and UCLA alum who were killed when their car was hit by a pick-up truck in Trenton, Maine early this morning.

Tam Tran was pursuing her Ph.D at Brown University and had graduated from UCLA in 2006. An activist, she testified in Congress about the DREAM Act, and days later, her home was raided and her family was arrested by immigration authorities. CORRECTED: Her family had immigrated to the U.S. from Vietnam via Germany, where she was born.

A budding filmmaker, she was an Armed with a Camera Fellow from Visual Communications, making the short documentary, "Lost and Found".

The 5-minute short was shown at last year's Asian Pacific Film Festival in Los Angeles. A VC profile of her by Lori Kido Lopez notes: "Tran first discovered her passion for filmmaking and activism as an undergraduate at UCLA, where she learned to make grassroots, guerrilla-style videos. Since she hadn't had the opportunity to learn any of the technical aspects of filmmaking, she jumped at the opportunity for mentorship and guidance under VC's Armed with a Camera program. As a Fellow in 2007, she was able to participate in workshops that taught her skills like cinematography and lighting, as well as share her treatment, rough cuts, and finished film with a cohort of like-minded young filmmakers."

Cinthya Felix had graduated from UCLA in 2007 with a degree in English and Spanish Literature and was attending Columbia University's School of Public Health. In a creative move, she set up a web site to help her raise the money to attend Columbia. Both were active in fighting to get undocumented students the right to graduate from university and remain in the United States.

Thanks to Fight On for background information.

The two activists' life and spirit will be celebrated at a UCLA memorial slated for Monday, 17 May from 3-5 p.m. at Charles E. Young Grand Salon in Kerckhoff Hall, UCLA. See Facebook event page.

Monday, May 3, 2010

Documentary "AOKI" on Asian American Black Panther Party co-founder

Richard Aoki (left).

2012 Update: Shocking revelation: Aoki an FBI informant? See CIR Online report.

Updated: To listen to this edition of the Subversity show, click here: . Technical difficulties precluded recording the entire show, however.

Not many people know that an Asian American radical helped start the Black Panther Party. That may now change with directors Ben Wang and Mike Cheng's documentary, AOKI, profiling the life of Richard Aoki, a militant Japanese American, interned as a kid in Topaz during WWII, who hung out with Black militants Huey Newton and Bobby Seale and was part and parcel of the Black Panther Party that formed out of the neighborhoods of Oakland, California, advocating self-determination for oppressed Blacks.

Subversity, a KUCI public affairs program, talks with directors Wang and Cheng about their documentary on Richard Aoki, who was a radical student at Merritt College and UC Berkeley. He served as Field Marshall in the Black Panther Party, training its members to stand up against police abuse and police occupation of their community. Aoki also founded the Asian American Political Alliance at Berkeley and was active in the Third World Strike there. Aoki is the subject of an ongoing biographical project, Sumurai among Panthers, by UC Santa Barbara Prof. Diane Fujino, who appears in the documentary.

The Subversity interview airs 3 May 2010 from 5-6 p.m. on KUCI, 88.9 FM in Orange County, Calif., and is simulcast via

The documentary AOKI will show Tuesday, 4 May 2010 at 7 p.m. at the Los Angeles Asian Pacific Film Festival, screening at the Downtown Independent Theater, 251 South Main St (Between 2nd and 3rd Streets), Little Tokyo, Downtown Los Angeles.

DVD copies of AOKI are available from Eastwind Books. See link for more information including where to request institutional orders.

The Los Angeles Asian Pacific Film Festival closes Thursday 6 May 2010 with a screening of the Hong Kong film, "Bodyguards and Assassins" (Teddy Chan, director), at the ARATANI/JAPAN AMERICA THEATRE, JAPANESE AMERICAN CULTURAL COMMUNITY CENTER(A/JAT, JACCC PLAZA), 244 South San Pedro St., (Between 2nd and 3rd Streets), Little Tokyo, Downtown Los Angeles. The film depicts a plot to kill later Chinese Republic founder Sun Yat-sen in 1906 in Hong Kong. The real-life Sun actually attended my secondary school in Hong Kong before he overthrew the Ching dynasty.