Friday, February 11, 2011

February 11, 2011

Today is my sweet grandmother's birthday. How does this relate to the film, you ask? Because, like the rest of my family, she has been an incredibly positive influence on me and has encouraged me to try big things. She's one of many family members who have taught me the importance of family, history, theater, art, culture, and genealogy.

We are who we are because of the people in our lives, I believe. My grandma is a fascinating creature, and I love her dearly. It's been about two weeks since I saw her last, and that feels like two years. I feel a twinge of hurt for our Montagnard friends as I write that sentence. Some of the Montagnards living in the States haven't seen family members who still live in Vietnam in many, many years.

Occasionally, I will talk to Montagnards living here in North Carolina and I ask if they have family still in Vietnam. I'm curious. Most of the time they say, "Yes," but it's a hesitant response--as if confirmation of such a fact stirs painful memories. Many of them have shared stories about fleeing Vietnam, leaving behind their beloved, and trying to stay in touch because they can't get back to visit.

I can't imagine not seeing my mom for 10 years, wondering how she's doing and feeling like there's little I can do to ensure her safety and well being. Not to mention fleeing my country as a refugee, unsure of whether I will ever see my homeland again. The concept and understanding of a political refugee's life here in the States is something I had not contemplated until I started working on Abandoned Allies.

There are groups helping our allies living in the States, which brings me joy. Churches, NGOs, and corporations are helping them get accustomed to life here. The basics like finding a place to live, getting food, finding a job, learning the language and culture, and raising a family are--I can only imagine--fairly challenging in a new country.

People ask me why a lot of Montagnards have come to North Carolina, and one of the many reasons is because other family members are here. You can believe that if I were forced to leave my home land as a political refugee, I'm going to try relocating where I know someone.

Today--as the people of Egypt force their leader out of power and as my dear grandmother celebrates her 91st birthday--I feel a sense of hope about the future of Vietnam, our Montagnard allies, and the potential of positive change that starts with a small group of very passionate individuals. I am an optimist and a realist, and I feel that when we learn the truth about an injustice, we have the beautiful possibility that we can do something to make it right.

For three years I have talked with Vietnam War Veterans--both Americans and Montagnards--and their disappointment in our government's treatment of these allies is overwhelming. This group of people has been marginalized for nearly 40 years, and they are none too happy about it. I desperately hope that we might give them a voice, so that these mistakes will not be repeated.

In the meantime, I keep working on the film. Hustling to get it finished.


gabrielle said...

Happy birthday to your grandmother! :)

Your documentary sounds very interesting, if not more than a little sad. I'm fascinated by the topic of the Vietnam War and how it personally affected the men and women that served (my dad and uncle are Vietnam vets), but I'm ashamed to admit that I never much considered how it affected our allies there personally as well. Good luck finishing your film- I would love to see it!

Camden Watts said...

Thank you, dear! I didn't get there in time to see your Ignite Durham presentation, but I bet it was great.

The doc has been incredibly fascinating, and I'm so excited about sharing it when we're finished. Thanks for the well wishes and encouragement!