Peter Landesman's thoughtful and balanced story brings back my own memories of being a teenage camp refugee. My pain was alleviated by outdoor movies and the happy celluloid images of America at a time when "home" and "country" became ambiguous and painful topics.
In April 1975, shortly before the end of the Vietnam War, my family boarded an American military aircraft and fled Saigon, the city of my birth. We came to Guam after a three-day stay in Clarks Air Base, in the Philippines. I was in Guam when I first heard that South Vietnam had surrendered to the Communists. People were cut adrift, and spent most of their days in shock. I was 13 at the time.
One night, the American soldiers who took care of our camp told everyone that there would be outdoor movies shown at the beach. I took my five siblings, who ranged from 3 to 10 years in age, to the screening. We took up a whole bleacher in front of the screen. We laughed at the vintage Disney cartoons and were somewhat perplexed by a very frenzied version of Dr. Seuss' "The Cat in the Hat." For an hour or two I forgot that I was a dan ty-nan ("seeker of asylum"), a teenager who overnight had to grapple with the notion of being a "homeless foreigner" in my adopted homeland.
While the idea of FilmAid could be construed by some as a frivolous luxury or an insensitive marketing ploy, it can also make indelible marks in those who still care to hope: that the world has not come to an end; that romance, adventure, and mystery still exist beyond death and suffering.
Nearly a quarter-century later, I still believe in the power of celluloid to soothe, to encourage, to challenge, and to inform. When I was a producer of the Asian-American Film Festival in Washington, D.C., I was able to showcase films written, directed and produced by Asian-Americans that explored the ever ambivalent subjects of loss, nationality and identity. I wholeheartedly embrace Caroline Baron's efforts.
Originally published on Salon.com. Read full article at: http://www.salon.com/letters/1999/07/15/hate/print.html