From a Vietnamese teenager, living with the effects of Agent Orange, to the man who rescues “cursed” Ethiopian children, documentaries are the incredible stories filmmakers want the world to see.
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They impact lives, make a difference and educate viewers by telling the stories we might not otherwise have known.
This week on Full Frame, conversations with filmmakers who know the power of real-life stories.
The Vietnam War: Children living with Agent Orange’s legacy
During the Vietnam War, Agent Orange was sprayed extensively by the U.S. military across forested areas of the country. Today, the Vietnamese Red Cross estimates exposure to the herbicide has negatively impacted the health of up to three million Vietnamese, among them, an estimated 150,000 children.
No one knows these statistics better than filmmaker Courtney Marsh. She originally traveled to Vietnam to chronicle the lives of its street children. She soon discovered a story that would drastically change and potentially save lives.
In her latest film, Chau, Beyond the Lines, Marsh introduces us to Chau, a disabled Vietnamese teenager living in a care center for children who are disabled by Agent Orange. Despite his physical limitations and countless obstacles, Chau is determined to realize his dream of becoming a professional artist and clothing designer.
During the film’s eight-year endeavor, Marsh also met and sought the help of Charles Bailey, a lead advisor in the cleanup effort surrounding Agent Orange in Vietnam.
From Seattle, Washington, Charles Bailey joins May Lee who is with filmmaker Courtney Marsh in our Los Angeles studio.
John Rowe: Saving Ethiopia’s “cursed” children
Media veteran John Rowe frequently traveled to Africa for both photography and philanthropy. His images have been published by National Geographic, The Guardian and CNN, among others. In 2010, Rowe traveled to Ethiopia’s Omo valley where he discovered the Kara tribe and its long-standing tradition of Mingi—the killing of children thought to be cursed. But he found one native, Lale Labuku, who was fighting to end the practice.
That same year, Rowe established Omo Child, a non-profit organization that rescues, cares for and educates these unwanted children. He then started filming Lale Labuku’s story. What started as a short video turned into a full-length documentary that’s been invited to 39 film festivals, around the world, winning dozens of awards. More importantly, both Rowe and Labuku have been instrumental in saving the lives of countless children and creating a profound cultural shift through the power of real-life stories.
John Rowe joins May Lee in our Los Angeles studio to discuss Ethiopia’s unwanted children.
E. Samantha Cheng: Discovering the Mississippi Delta Chinese legacy
Writer, producer and director E. Samantha Cheng says, despite being educated in New York City’s public schools and universities, the first time she learned about the U.S. government forcing more than 100,000 Japanese Americans into internment camps during World War Two, wasn’t when she was a student, but when she was an adult. She says it was a subject – never discussed in her U.S. history class. It was this moment when Cheng vowed to spread knowledge about Asian-American history using the power of real-life stories.
Cheng’s newest documentary, Honor and Duty: The Mississippi Delta Chinese explores the Chinese community in the Delta, beginning with the first 16 Chinese who immigrated there during the 19th century.
The film also reveals the story of 182 Chinese men, from the Delta, who served during World War Two. Their legacy and the contribution of those who followed continue to make an impact today.
E. Samantha Cheng sat down with Full Frame’s Mike Walter, in our Washington, D.C. studio, to find out more about this Chinese-American legacy.
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Cave Temples of Dunhuang: Buddist art on China’s Silk Road
One of the most famous art museums in the U.S. has recreated one of China’s most important heritage places, the Cave Temples of Dunhuang. They were once a popular rest stop, marketplace and religious shrine along the fabled Silk Road. But today, more than 1700 kilometers away from Beijing, they are not the easiest place to visit.
As May Lee shows us, now full-sized replicas of the caves are on display for the whole world to see.