Studio Revolt, a collaborative media lab, in Phnom Penh recently released two videos “My Asian Americana” and “Why I Write” on the deportation of Khmer exiled Americans. Both videos use the medium of film to humanize the experiences of exiled Americans, re-framing the issue as a human rights violation. Consistent to Studio Revolt’s style, each video pushes unconventional narratives into a public sphere while still exhibiting the studio’s high quality production value on a shoestring budget. Strategically changing the discourse from deportees to “exiles” is in fact part of the studio’s appeal to a larger public to reconsider this debate.
My Asian Americana
Why I Write
“The term “deportee,” suggestive of someone who has been sent back to “a homeland,” fails to acknowledge the very fact that Cambodian Americans are in fact Americans who pledge their allegiance not to Cambodia but to the United States. Having paid for their crimes in the United States, they have been unfairly and involuntarily sentenced to live the rest of their lives abroad, in a place that is not home and offers no refuge. They are thus incontrovertibly exiles, Americans who long for their U.S. homeland.” — Dr. Cathy Schlund-Vials, Asian American Studies Institute at University of Connecticut
In “My Asian Americana” a small community of concerned expats and exiles living in Phnom Penh gathered to film a short video challenging the unjust act of deportations. On November 1st, the video was submitted to the White House Asian American Pacific Islander Initiative’s What’s Your Story Video Challenge which called for submissions of Asian American stories of impact. The studio hopes the film will convince the White House to prioritize the issue of deportation as an urgent Asian American.
Director and Producer Anida Yoeu Ali states, “Although U.S. Laws and Policies may appear “effective” for the administration in power, history has proven that the same laws and policies were often created out of fear and discrimination to disenfranchise a specific population (i.e Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882, Angel Island, Anti-Miscegenation laws, Japanese Internment Camps). As Asian Americans, it is our obligation to never forget our histories nor remain silent in the face of adversity. As Americans we grew up believing justice is for all.”
The second short film, “Why I Write” created by filmmaker and cinematographer Masahiro Sugano presents a stark and powerful spoken word video debut by Kosal Khiev. Kosal, a poet and US Prison system survivor, was deported to Cambodia in February 2011 after serving a 14 year sentence. While in prison, Kosal discovered spoken word poetry from a former Vietnam War veteran. Spoken word became his creative channel to tell his own story and transform his anger, regrets, and experiences into a poetic art form. Since his arrival, Kosal has used poetry to uplift his situation, with compelling performances at NERD night, The Body Open Mic series, and TEDx Phnom Penh. Along with the debut of his video, Kosal Khiev also launched his website spokenkosal.com which has additional information for others in jeopardy of being deported to Cambodia.
“We may not have all the voices we need in Congress right now, but what we have are our own voices – which have been presented by Studio Revolt in a form we can use to organize for the social and political change we desperately need.” — Mia-lia Kiernan, Community Organizer of One Love Movement (Philadelphia)