This documentary follows the culture, traditions, and struggle of Laotian and other Asian immigrants who immigrate to the U.S. and ended up in the Midwest. Even though this was filmed in the late 80s, I was very surprised by the blatant violence and racism that was not only directed towards the Asian immigrants, but towards Black Americans as well. I also feel like this may have been heightened because of the geographical space, political ideals, and types of jobs that were available in the region at that time. There was a stark contrast between what the Americans believed and what the Laotian immigrants wanted, and the back and forth between The people in the bar, in the cafe, the veterans, and even people interviewed on the street made a spectacle of the Laotian immigrant’s language, their culture, as well as what their churches looked like. There was also an emphasis that the immigrants may have ended up on welfare, which they didn’t believe was fair. I felt like the immigrants in this documentary wanted to fit in to the new culture; they learned English, learned how to use the computer, got new jobs, etc., but some of the interviewees seemed to want the opposite.
When the film launched into the photographs towards the beginning, there were voiceovers by the people who worked in the manufacturing industries and how they ended up in the U.S. as well as the mixing of races that occurred thereafter. Despite the people in the bar’s opinions, it is evident that Laotian immigrants are still struggling, choosing to work in any industry they can (the man working as an upholsterer and an artist on the side). The veterans who fought in Vietnam were upset that they weren’t able to find jobs while the Asian immigrants were opening restaurants, working in manufacturing, etc. I believe that at this time, most of the Americans interviewed thought that the Laotians came to take their jobs, when in reality they had to flee for their safety whether they wanted to or not.
Something that I was interested to see was that the younger group of people that were interviewed for this documentary seemed to have a broader and more accepting view of the immigrants and said that, “they should be, you know, just the same treated as we should be.” This is a theme that I feel is reintroducing itself into our society (specifically with gen z) on a large scale with the rising of social media, exposure to world issues, etc.