Photo: United States Geological Survey
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'Journey of a Paper Son'
A film screening and shared stories
"Paper people," audience members who descended from paper sons and daughters. (Photo by O.C. Lee)
A man lies dying on a hospital bed. With his children around him, he requests that they change his last name to his real family last name. The children each deal with this truth differently, but all three are shocked to learn that their father came to the U.S. illegally with falsified papers.
In the short film "Journey of a Paper Son" by Ming Lai of Humanist Films, the siblings come to terms with this truth. Lai was influenced to write, direct and produce this film, because of a desire to write a Chinese American story. He pointed out that there are several movies about Chinese history and Japanese American history -- particularly on the internment -- but very little on Chinese American history.
While Lai is not a paper son himself and the movie is a story on a Chinese American family, Lai points out that it is a universal story -- immigrants trying to be part of America. He put a reference to his father in the movie. Jin says, "50 years of cutting meat, and they cut me." Lai's father started as a butcher when he came the U.S. Lai's father eventually became an airplane technician.
Jack Ong, who stars as the dying father Jin, said the script resonated with him. His own father had brought three paper sons to the U.S. He remembers his parents constantly warning them not to reveal the truth of the statuses of the various "uncles." Before shooting, Ong said he talked to his father's paper sons to get a better sense of their stories. The last of his father's paper sons passed away just before shooting began.
Through the film, Lai hopes that it'll expose more people to the paper sons phenomena and prevent similar events from happening in the future. Another one of the stars on the show, Teddy Chen Culver who plays the son, admitted during the Q&A, "I'm a perfect example of that; I knew very little about paper sons."
If you would like to submit your own "paper son" story to News 'N Notes, please e-mail them to CHSSC@hotmail.com or mail your story to 415 Bernard St., Los Angeles, CA 90012.
For more information about the movie, visit www.journeyofapaperson.com.