Entertainment Spotlight

What’s Going On? Everything, All at Once By Ben Fong-Torres

Posted by Suzanne Kai - on Sunday, 08 May 2022

What’s Going On? Everything, All at Once By Ben Fong-Torres
What’s Going On? Everything, All at Once By Ben Fong-Torres MAY 8, 2022 With “Like a Rolling Stone: The Life and Times of Ben Fong-Torres” the documentary about me, now out today and streaming merrily along on Netflix, I’m officially in the film industry.  Actually, that’s been the case since last June, when the documentary, which stole its title from a popular column at Asian Connections created by director Suzanne Joe Kai's son Mike when he was 14, premiered at the...

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 sees education as a way out of the projects. When he was in the fifth grade, Samnang joined Angkor Dance Troupe because he wanted to learn the Monkey Dance a traditional tale about a folk hero figure that Sam electrifies and transforms by adding hip-hop choreography.

Sochenda Uch is preoccupied with making money to pay for car repairs and accessories and for stylish clothes. His mother remarks, We escaped to live in a place where we dont understand anything. My kids dont know anything about hardship and struggle. Sochenda works five hours a day and eventually his schoolwork suffers, resulting in rejection from all the colleges he applies to. After this disheartening setback, he reexamines what is really important to him and takes steps to change his circumstances.

The Angkor Dance Troupe plays a key role in helping these kids make the right choices, says filmmaker Mallozzi. It links them to their parents culture, at time when many kids their age reject a lot of Cambodian tradition as irrelevant to their lives in America. The troupe connects them to the past, but it also gives them a way to become more successful Americans, through gaining confidence and recognition as performers.

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.