Today was the screening of the documentary “Eating Welfare.” This event hosted by SACE (Southeast Asian Community Empowerment), a newly-formed committee at the AARC dedicated to issues surrounding the Southeast Asian community and the refugee experience.
Having been a part of organizing this event, tonight was the second time watching the documentary. But what surprised me so much was how different and new it seemed after having the in-class discussion on “The Fall of I-Hotel.” Call me a nerd, but I got super excited as my brain started making connections to what I learned in class just a couple of hours before. The biggest thing that struck me was the similarity of “Eating Welfare” with “Fall of I-Hotel.” These two films were made a decade apart and focused on different issues, but the connection was undeniable.
“Eating Welfare” was produced by a group of Vietnamese- and Cambodian-American youth who are a part of the Southeast Asian refugee community in Bronx, NY. They documented the lives of their families and their community, and how they were impacted by the 1996 welfare reforms (Clinton’s Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Act).
Having been created by a group of students who lacked an extensive education in filming/editing techniques, the documentary is definitely rough and reminded me of the “anti-slick” characteristics of “Yellow Brotherhood” and “Homecoming Game.” The youth tell their stories through sit-down interviews, “on-site” interviews with their parents, clips of their welfare rally, slideshows of images, and student-led tours of their neighborhood and homes. The purposeful choice of the filmmakers in interviewing the student activists in front of a framed picture of Malcolm X seemed to echo similar settings which we saw in interviews in “Homecoming Game.” The raw footage from their rally at the welfare offices brought to mind the protest scenes in “I-Hotel.” The subjects of the films were strikingly similar as well. Both “Welfare” and “I-Hotel” show young members of a community fighting for the rights and well-being of their elders — their parents and their manongs, respectively.
The use of audio/music also paralleled some of the discussion in class. The songs chosen to accompany certain scenes and images matched the political motivations of the film. They drew their picks from a variety of underground hip hop artists when showing scenes of the youth active in their neighborhood and on the streets. The song accompanying the slideshow of the students in action was clearly chosen for its ability to evoke emotion from the audience.
This blog post is becoming a bit too long, so I will try to wrap it up.
Overall, it was inspiring to see these empowered students (in high school or younger) stand up for their community. They united to raise their voice and break the silence that dominates much of the Southeast Asian communities and their issues.
It made me think, ‘What was I doing when I was 16?’
Posted by Jasmine Kim
Entry filed under: Uncategorized.