Friday, April 10, 2015

Lea Salonga hosts PBS documentary series during Asian American/Pacific American Heritage Month

The ubiquitous jeepneys of the Philippines are featured in a documentary being aired by PBS in May.
A TRIO of documentaries about the lives, triumphs and culture of Filipino Americans will gain its widest American audience yet when they are aired by Public Broadcasting System (PBS) in May. 

The three Filipino documentaries, “The Delano Manongs” by Marissa Aroy, “Jeepney” by Esy Casey and Sarah Friedland, and “Harana” by Benito Bautista, along with other documentaries were organized by the Center for Asian American Media (CAAM), a non-profit organization that aims to present stories of Asian American experiences, will be part of a the month long series being held in celebration of the “Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month.”

Tony Award winning actor, singer and Broadway performer Lea Salonga will be hosting the  month long series of documentaries. She is currently in rehearsals for "Allegiance" due to open on Broadway in the fall.
Lea Salonga will host the Asian American series.

The documentaries are making the rounds of the Asian American film festivals being held around the country this spring.

The Filipino films featured in the PBS series are:

The Delano Manongs” by Marissa Aroy tells the story of farm labor organizer Larry Itliong and a group of Filipino farm workers who instigated one of the American farm labor movement’s finest hours – The Delano Grape Strike of 1965 that brought about the creation of the United Farm Workers Union (UFW). While the movement is known for Cesar Chavez’s leadership and considered a Chicano movement, Filipinos played a pivotal role. Filipino labor organizer, Larry Itliong, a cigar-chomping union veteran, organized a group of 1500 Filipinos to strike against the grape growers of Delano, California, beginning a collaboration between Filipinos, Chicanos and other ethnic workers that would go on for years.

Jeepney” by Esy Casey and Sarah Friedland is about the artistic and vibrant modes of public transportation known as the jeepney representing a totem of tradition in the Philippines. Director Esy Casey goes beyond the exterior of the decorated ex-WWII military vehicles and follows the lives of three people who share a connection to the jeepney: Gerry, a witty driver who has deep affection for tradition; Lhudz, whose remarkable artwork appears on the vehicles; and Manny, who grew up near a US military base and watched the evolution of the jeepney. With the vivid and historically rich jeepney, the documentary uncovers deeply personal stories and the effects of globalization. 

"Harana” by Benito Bautista. After his father’s death, classically trained musician Florante Aguilar returns to the Philippines after 12 years. While there, he is re-introduced to the music of harana, a tradition where Filipino men would sing under the window to declare their love for a particular woman – a serenade. Florante travels to provinces and meets some of the surviving harana musicians. From there, they help a young man serenade his object of affection which grows into a resurgence of the long lost art. The men start performing in prestigious concert halls and record the first authentic harana album in 50 years. “Harana” captures a tender side of the Philippines that is rarely seen. The documentary film has received numerous awards worldwide.

Now ... wasn't that lovely? The documentary shows a tender side of Filipino men seldom seen in the U.S. I would love to see a resurgence of that custom. So much more  warmth, sincerity and passion than the twerking and in-your-face sex of that dominates so much of today's pop music scene. Indeed, their singing could melt any heart.

Among the other documentaries to be aired are:

“Soul Of A Banquet” By Wayne Wang
In the documentary “Soul Of A Banquet”, celebrated director Wayne Wang follows Cecilia Chiang, the woman who introduced America to authentic Chinese food. Her internationally renowned San Francisco restaurant The Mandarin opened in 1961 and changed the course of American cuisine. Through interviews with Alice Waters, Ruth Reichl, and Chiang herself, the documentary showcases Chiang’s remarkable food and paints a touching portrait of her life.
“Lucky Chow” By Bruce Seidel
From Peking Duck in Manhattan’s Chinatown to the kimchi of Los Angeles’s Koreatown to the nationwide ramen renaissance, the six-episode travelogue takes audiences across the country to show us how Asian cuisine has transformed the landscape of food in the United States. The series also takes a look at some of the country’s most talented chefs including ramen chef Ivan Orkin, carpenter turned Thai chef Andy Ricker, Filipino Food Movement founder PJ Quesada, and Korean adoptee “Top Chef” winner Kristen Kish.

“Stateless” By Duc Nguyen
Directed by Emmy Award-winning filmmaker Duc H. Nguyen, “Stateless” presents another side of immigration by following a group Vietnamese people who are not considered as a national by any state, or “stateless.” Through flashbacks and real time interviews, Nguyen uncovers the complicated international history and politics in the post Vietnam-American war era, which resulted in over 2,000 Vietnamese refugees or “Long-Stayers” in the Philippines trapped without nationality or citizenship.

“Memory Of Forgotten War”
By Deann Borshay Liem
Historians Bruce Cumings and Ji-Yeon Yuh curate four accounts from survivors of the Korean War (1950-1953) in “Memory Of Forgotten War”. Through newsreels, U.S. military footage, and archival photographs, the documentary gives historical context to these personal stories of loss, struggle, and struggle.

“This Is My Home Now” By Mariah Dunn Kramer and Dean MacLeod
“This Is My Home Now” documents the lives of four Montagnard youths whose families have come to American in the past decade from Asia. They live in two worlds—that of their parents and grandparents, who lived in the highlands of Viet Nam but fled from government persecution for their Christian religion and desire for autonomy—and one of constant learning and adaptation to be Americans in North Carolina.