New Documentary Reveals the Struggle of a Vietnamese American Family Separated by ICE

It has long been Lan Nguyen’s mission to bring to light on one of the most overlooked facets of the United State’s crackdown on immigrants: the deportation of Southeast Asian refugees.

Nguyen, who teaches ethnic studies at the California State University of Long Beach, has been organizing with VietUnity-SoCal and seeks social change with her film.

A daughter of Vietnamese refugees herself, the immigration advocate is now hoping to tell the story of thousands of Southeast Asian refugees who are currently facing deportation with a short documentary focusing on one Vietnamese family.

Called “Fighting for Family,” the film follows couple Chuh and Rex, as they raise their family apart while fighting to be reunited. It will touch on the psychological and emotional pain of separation as Chuh struggles to adjust in living Vietnam and Rex tries to balance working, raising her children, and maintaining their long-distance relationship. She is also exhausting all efforts to find a way for her husband to return to the U.S.

The couple, who are both refugees from the indigenous tribe of Montagnards in Vietnam, started a family in North Carolina nearly 20 years ago. They were reportedly childhood lovers who ended up raising a family of four daughters. When Chuh was deported to Vietnam in 2017, his wife Rex and their daughters were left in the U.S.

“In 2017, I learned about how over 14,000 Southeast Asian refugees were at risk of being deported and separated from their families,” Nguyen shared in a recent piece on Medium. “I felt enraged that our people have already survived war, treacherous journeys on boats and through jungles, and adapting to challenging environments in the U.S., yet once again, our people are being displaced and separated from families.”

Primarily aimed at increasing awareness on the issue of immigration, the project is also seeking to raise funds to help affected family. Nguyen was able to pay for the production and post-production costs of the project with funding from Sol Collective and the Critical Refugee Studies Collective. However, the amount could not cover the compensation for the family.

Nguyen noted in the film’s Indiegogo campaign that the family will be using their compensation to pay for post-conviction relief legal fees and other needs while living in separation. The campaign has so far received $1,635 in donations from 34 backers out of its $5,000 target.

“Although we recognize that compensating documentary subjects is unconventional in the documentary field, we are strong advocates of creating reciprocal relationships between filmmakers and subjects, rather than extractive, unbalanced relationships,” the campaign description explained. “We believe that as documentary filmmakers, we have a responsibility to further social movements, which includes financial support.”

The film is currently in post-production and is set to be completed by September this year.  Nguyen hopes to show the documentary to various film festivals around the world and to eventually release it through an online streaming platform next year.

Featured Image via YouTube / Lan Nguyen

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