Asian gangbangers and Dirty Harry retired?

Gran Torino starring the Hmong community?  It was a bit of a long ride to get the interview for Apex. Try cracking the Hollywood studio PR department and you gotta be someone to get them to talk to you. Gran Torino was no exception. Except I didn’t want to speak to Clint Eastwood but to the un-sung Hmong actors and extras. So I did a round about and got contacts (thanks Louisa) cuz I knew it was faster to by-pass the studio.

But this here’s always the problem with interviews with anyone or anything with broad “name” recognition like an Eastwood movie: folks you want to interview may not want to talk about what an anti-racist pro-gressive Asian Pacific Islander radio on-line program like Apex wants to talk about.  Will the studio want to review the interview before it airs? Will starving Asian actors be careful about biting the hand that might give them a break?  (Yeah – maybe.)  Were the Hmong actors invited to the film’s gala openings? Are Chinese and Japanese mafia movies tired; will Hmong have a chance to be the latest Asian gangsters? Will folks be happy with these questions? (No – not really.)

But I got lucky on my first call to Elvis Thao – Hmong activist, MC, and extra, (a gangbanger in the film). And more luck. He was more than willing to talk. This is good, if not great.  (Hear it on the Jan 8 Apex show–check out the sites on the blogroll). This is just another way of saying sometimes it’s a better talk if it’s with an extra than a star. You get an extra dab of reality. (by G)

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One response to “Asian gangbangers and Dirty Harry retired?

  1. More on how the Hmong were abandoned by the US after the Vietnam War, quite unlike the ‘heartwarming’ lesson that Dirty Harry learns in ‘Gran Torino’-

    http://www.kaichang.net/2007/02/hmong.html

    Jeff Lindsay has put together an excellent web page on the Hmong from what you might call the mainstream American angle, including the following email from a retired career soldier and Vietnam veteran named Jack Austin Smith:

    “…The war in Vietnam was fought on several fronts and I served in two them. The main American battle ground was in the Southern end of South Vietnam. In order for the North Vietnamese forces to fight us there, it was necessary for their supplies and troops to go through Laos and Cambodia on the Ho Chi Minh Trail, and Laos was controlled by a Pro-Communist Government at that time. Therefore America was not allowed to have any forces on the ground, although we were allowed to bomb and attack North Vietnamese troops with our aerial forces. About 99% of the combat forces on the ground were Hmong irregulars who were persuaded by Americans to forget about being neutral, and to fight the N. Vietnamese regulars (not relatively poorly trained Viet Cong guerrilla forces). We supplied air cover, but every combat trooper knows aircraft can’t take and hold ground. We depended on the Hmongs to do this. Without modern arms, without medical help.

    After the fall of Saigon we pulled out of Southeast Asia and left the Hmongs to continue the fight without air support. When we left, the Hmong had to fight both the Laotians and the N. Vietnamese. They could not fight tanks, heavy artillery and aircraft with rifles. A great many Hmongs were slaughtered in their villages. Many were slaughtered at airfields where they waited for evacuation planes that never came. A few were able to fight every foot of the way across Laos and cross the Mekong River into refugee camps in Thailand where they were further mistreated by rather corrupt UN and Thai officials. Out of a estimated 3,000,000 prewar Hmong population less than 200,000 made it to safety. One other ill informed or stupid writer said “they were all gone” meaning, I guess, that the combat Hmongs were all dead, they are wrong. Most of the survivors are in Australia, France and here among us.

    Now I don’t know about those heroes who have never heard a shot fired in anger, but I am embarrassed that my country so mislead these people. The Hmongs gave up literally everything for us: their country, their homes, their peaceful way of life, most of their families, everything that we would cherish. We promised them our continued support and then we bugged out….”

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