Entertainment Spotlight

Catching Up: Santana, Taj Mahal and a déjà vu ‘Blue Christmas’

Posted by Ben Fong-Torres - on Tuesday, 27 December 2011

Catching Up: Santana, Taj Mahal and a déjà vu ‘Blue Christmas’
By Ben Fong-Torres It’s short shrift time. I have a life that’s ripe (and slightly wrinkled) for blogs and tweeting; for facebooking and updating. I’m just no good at it. My last column here on AsianConnections was about the memorial in late July for my sister Shirley. My last posting on the authors’ site, Redroom, was about a radio promo tour I did (20 stops, all on the phone in my home office) for my Eagles book. On my own home page, the last thing was about hanging with...

Arts & Entertainment

Inside the Balancing Acts of Chinese Acrobat Man Tan Fong

Posted by Lia Chang on Friday, 05 May 2006

Balancing Acts Tells the Remarkable Story of Chinese Acrobat Man Tan Fong

Balancing Acts . a new documentary by director Donna Schatz, chronicles the astonishing life of Man Tan Fong who left his home in 1929 as a teenager in China to train in Hong Kong as an acrobat. After a year of grueling training, he began performing with a Chinese acrobat troupe throughout Europe and eventually formed his own group, the Oriental Brothers. While performing in Copenhagen, Fong met Magda Schweitzer, a Hungarian Orthodox Jewish acrobat, who was performing on the same bill. They fell in love and were married at the start of World War II.

Through archival footage, photos, and interviews, Balancing Acts showcases Man Tan Fongs career and the story of how his wife and two sons were able to survive Nazi-occupied Hungary during WWII. His Chinese citizenship protected them because it gave Magda a Chinese passport, which hid her Jewish identity. Balancing Acts by director Donna Schatz is a story about the sacrifice, love, and perseverance of Man Tan Fong, now in his 90s, and Magda Schweizter, who passed away in 2003.

Balancing Acts premieres on PBS this May as part of the Center for Asian American Media's lineup of films for Asian Pacific American Heritage Month. (Check local listings.)

The Center for Asian American Media (formerly known as the National Asian American Telecommunications Association) has a new director. A fond farewell to Eddie Wong and a hearty welcome to Stephen Gong. Gong, 53, joins the Center after working for 18 years at the University of California, Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive, most recently as the Deputy Director. He has a degree in English from UC Berkeley and attended graduate school in cinema studies at the University of Southern California. www.asianamericanmedia.org.

Kayo Hatta's Fishbowl premieres on PBS

Posted by Lia Chang on Friday, 05 May 2006

On Tuesday, May 9, 2006, Kayo Hatta's Fishbowl, a decidedly off-kilter look at contemporary American life in Hawaii, premieres on PBS.

(San Francisco)--On Tuesday, May 9, 2006 at 10 PM (check local listings), PBS series Independent Lens co-presents with the Center for Asian American Media (CAAM) Kayo Hatta's Fishbowl , a short film that offers a decidedly off-kilter look at contemporary American life.

This final film from the late acclaimed Hawaiian filmmaker Kayo Hatta (Picture Bride) was adapted from Lois-Ann Yamanaka's Wild Meat and the Bully Burgers , and set in the sleepy plantation town of Hilo, Hawaii. Fishbowl is about a brooding 11-year-old named Lovey who is trying to be anything but herself. Ridiculed by the popular girls and picked on by her teacher for speaking pidgin English, Lovey escapes into a world of pop fantasy daydreams. Add to the mix an obsession with the Captain and Tennille, her effeminate best friend Jerry, and an eventful Halloween party and one soon realizes that this is anything but a Disney Channel view of modern youth.

Visit the program companion websites:
http://www.pbs.org/independentlens/fishbowl/

The Center for Asian American Media (formerly known as the National Asian American Telecommunications Association) has a new director. A fond farewell to Eddie Wong and a hearty welcome to Stephen Gong. Gong, 53, joins the Center after working for 18 years at the University of California, Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive, most recently as the Deputy Director. He has a degree in English from UC Berkeley and attended graduate school in cinema studies at the University of Southern California.

Filipino Pop Band the Sunspots shine in Spotlighting

Posted by Lia Chang on Friday, 05 May 2006

Spotlighting Follows Filipino Pop Band the Sunspots and Their Dreams of Success as Entertainers

Spotlighting , an entertaining and touching tribute to the long career of Filipino Pop Band the Sunspots, airs on
PBS this May as part of the Center for Asian American Media's first rate lineup of films for Asian Pacific American Heritage Month. (Check local listings.)

The Sunspots seemed to be well on their way to success in the 1960s. The band was famous in Okinawa, Japan, and Korea as well as in their home country, the Philippines. They had landed a contract with one of the best agencies in America, played in the Latin Quarter in New York City, and were scheduled to appear on the Ed Sullivan Show. Directors Josh Diamond and Justin Lin (Better Luck Tomorrow and Annapolis ) trace the rise of the Sunspots and show how close the band came to worldwide success in this new documentary. The film shows the group in their early days, competing in local talent contests to playing American bases throughout Asia. Their success at the military bases led to a big tour in the U.S., playing in countless cities during the 1950s and 60s. The band even caught the attention of Ed Sullivan and Johnny Carson. But the Sunspots never got that "lucky break." Instead, a strike cancelled their appearance on Ed Sullivan and their management decided that instead of going on Johnny Carson, it would be better for them to go on the road as the opening act for Al Hirt and his jazz band. And, of course, the U.S. was hit by the British Invasion the Beatles. We couldve been the Yellow Beatles! exclaim the Sunspots. But instead, they band stayed on the road, playing clubs in the U.S., Canada, Puerto Rico, the Bahamas, and so on. If we were white, we would be somewhere, says one band member. The Sunspots eventually settled in Las Vegas where they have played in the Omaha Lounge of the Plaza Hotel for ten years, developing a deeply loyal following. Entertain[ing] people is about...

Three Cambodian Teens come of age in Monkey Dance

Posted by Lia Chang on Friday, 05 May 2006

Monkey Dance Captures the Struggles of Three Cambodian American Teenagers Coming of Age in Lowell, Massachusetts

Julie Mallozzis Monkey Dance airs on PBS this May as part the Center for Asian American Media's diverse lineup of films for Asian Pacific American Heritage Month. (Check local listings.)

This award-winning documentary chronicles the tough challenges facing three Cambodian American teenagers as they grow up in working-class Lowell, Massachusetts. Monkey Dance traces the teens' path through adolescencefrom their relationships with their parents and their involvement in Cambodian dance to their hopes of getting into college. Although traditional Cambodian dance ties them together and provides a connection to their parents culture, the lure of cars and consumerism often proves too strong.

Their immigrant parents escaped the Khmer Rouge genocide in the 1970s and settled in Lowell, home to the second-largest Cambodian community in the United States. They hoped for a better life for their children, toiling in low-wage factory jobs to support their families. But life in America is not what they expect. Instead of following the Cambodian saying that the leaf does not fall far from the tree, as one parent says, sometimes the wind carries the leaf away as friends pull them along.

Linda Sou has been dancing in Angkor Dance Troupe, which her father founded, since she was three years old. The 17-year-old also has an active social life, and sometimes spends little time at home, much to her parents dismay. Despite her wild ways, Linda wants to defy the expectation that she wont finish high school because of what happened to Sophea, her older sister. Sophea is in prison for killing her abusive boyfriend.

Samnang Hors two older brothers dropped out of high school because they got involved with gangs and drugs. Now his mother has pinned all of her hopes and dreams on him to succeed and go to college. With help from his mentors, he...

Asian Immigrant Workers Fight for Justice in Grassroots Rising

Posted by Lia Chang on Thursday, 04 May 2006

Grassroots Rising Reveals the Eye-Opening Stories of Asian Immigrant Workers in Los Angeles and Their Fight for Justice

Grassroots Rising by director Robert Winn (Saigon U.S.A. ) airs on PBS this May as part of the Center for Asian Media's lineup of films for Asian Pacific American Heritage Month. (Check local listings.)

The media gives little press attention to working class America and even less to low-wage Asian immigrant workers. Grassroots Rising tells the powerful stories of these immigrants and the moving struggles they face in the fight to improve their working conditions. Far from the model minority stereotypes who dont rock the boat, these Asians are activists and refuse to be exploited. As mainstream unions have not made many inroads in organizing Asian immigrant workers in Los Angeles, grassroots worker centers have taken their place in educating workers about their rights and collaborating with them to fight for their rights. Grassroots Rising shows what organizations like the Korean Immigrant Worker Advocates (KIWA), the Pilipino Workers Center, the Garment Worker Center, and the Thai Community Development Center are doing in their respective communities.

In Grassroots Rising , we meet Jung Hee Lee, a Korean restaurant worker who worked 14-hour days for more than a year. She became an activist after she learned from KIWA that her boss was violating labor laws by paying her a monthly wage and not compensating her for overtime. We meet Rojana Cheunchijit, who was one of several Thai garment workers forced into slave labor in El Monte, California, an infamous case that made international headlines when the horrendous working conditions were exposed. We also meet Hong Shin Park, who works at a Korean market where he lifts 40-pound bags of rice and 70-pound boxes of cabbages. When he injures his back, he is not compensated. He wants to stay in the U.S. so that his daughter can be educated in America. After meeting a Mexican...