Monday, July 16, 2012

Left by the Ship

Release Date: 2012
Production Company: VISITOR Q sri
Director: Emma Rossi Landi and Alberto Vendemmiati
Run time: Full length 81 minutes, PBS length 57 minutes
Seen on: PBS Independent Lens

Subic Bay in the Phillipines  was a major ship-repair, supply, and rest and recreation facility of the United States Navy.  When it was closed in 1992, it was the largest overseas military installation of the U.S. Armed Forces.

Left by the Ship tells the story of three young Amerasians, Charlene Elizabeth Rose, JR Nielson Dyas, and Robert Ianne Gonzaga.  These young people are in a strange position, caught between two societies.  The Amerasian Homecoming Act  "provides for the immigration to the United States of certain Amerasian children. In order to qualify for benefits under this law, an alien must have been born in Cambodia, Korea, Laos, Thailand, or Vietnam after December 31, 1950, and before October 22, 1982, and have been fathered by a U.S. citizen."  The Phillipines are not included in the act, despite the estimate of 52,000 Amerasians fathered by U.S. military service members.

Robert was a journalist and acts as the narrator of the film.  It is powerful to have the narrator as someone looking from within, not an outsider.  After having children, Robert found it important to learn about his background and help others find theirs. "And the thread of my life joined theirs."  He worked with JR, gang member who always found struggles despite his loving mother.  Together they found and contacted JR's father, a former Blood gang member is California.

The background of Amerasians is evident on their faces, especially those who are half African-American.  They are often stigmatized and bullied by their peers.  The story of Charlene Elizabeth was quite interesting.  She was in college and gained entrance into a beauty pageant.  Despite the economic hardships the competition placed on her and her mother, she competed.  It seemed significant to her to be included in a beauty pageant as a half-Filipino and half African-American.  She got choked up when introducing herself in the competition.

Overall, the film is a compelling story of three young people.  They are "not so different from other Filipinos in the way we lead out lives, the way we speak, the way we dress.  But inside us is a secret burden, a weight we all share."

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