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Asian Americans experience in segregated south explored

This month the World Channel premiered Far East Deep South, a documentary that follows producer Baldwin Chiu’s father, Charles Chiu, and his journey of uncovering their lost family history and the racially complex experience of Chinese immigrants in the segregated South. 

“With someone with an Asian face, a lot of people don’t perceive us as being from here or that we don’t belong or that we are perpetual foreigners. I think it is really important to know that the lineage in this country is strong. We have been in many parts of the country, not just the South. We want people to know that we are Americans,” director and producer Larissa Lam said, reports Sampan.

Produced by married couple Chiu and Lam, the documentary unveils the impact of race-based immigration policies on their family, as well as the symbiotic relationship they had with the Black community during the Jim Crow era. According to Spectrum News1, the film also displays the impact of the Chinese Exclusion Act on the Asian community in the South.

Lam and Chiu took special consideration in making sure the story was objective and representative of the immigrant experience by hearing from multiple communities, reports Sampan

“[It was important to us to make sure] that it wasn’t just Chinese people, or Chinese American people talking about their story. We wanted to get the voice of the White community, the Black community. We wanted to hear from all the communities and we wanted to hear it from different age groups,” said Chiu.

While on-screen representation was important to Lam and Chiu, so was ensuring that the people who worked behind the scenes encompassed a diverse range of people rather than having an all-Asian crew. Lam said that they benefited from working with a non-Asian editor.

“I’m actually glad we had a non Asian editor because we would include things – for instance, there was a line where Baldwin and his father were talking about growing up ABC, and those of us know that’s American Born Chinese but [the editor is] White. He’s like, ‘what does that mean?’ Then all of a sudden, we have to define it for people,” Lam said.

Giant Flashlight Media Photo

The project was started five years ago, and the process prepared Lam and Chiu for this time of increased anti-Asian hate crimes. 

“I really felt like there was an absence of the history of Asians in American being one, documented and two, actually taught in classrooms and discussed in the public arena. And yet today, you know, in this moment, we have seen the anti-Asian sentiment rise up in the last year, which has always been bubbling under but now has really come to the surface. I think everything that we felt and the reasoning why we made the film has been in a sense justified, because we were preparing for this moment the whole time,” said Lam.

On May 24, Lam and Chiu will host a discussion with the Pasadena Library that explores the film and unpacks the rise of anti-Asian hate crimes, according to Spectrum News1.

“We really hope that the message of our film is to show that people are human at the core. It is about families. We all have families and hopefully we can look at each other, not by race, but you’re a mother, a brother, you’re a sister, you’re a father, you’re a daughter, you’re a son,” said Chiu.

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