Baldwin Chiu Shares Info on “Far East Deep South,” Screening at The Strand
Posted at 11:39 a.m. on Friday, October 7, 2022
Like many, Baldwin Chiu wanted to know more about his genealogy.
Being Chinese, Chiu simply assumed that her family was from China. But after persuading his father to talk about his lineage—one Chiu’s father was hesitant to share—he learned that his roots had ties to Mississippi.
On Saturday, October 15, the Strand Theater will offer a screening of “Far East Deep South,” an award-winning feature-length documentary produced by Chiu and his wife, Larissa Lam. The film, told through the eyes of Chiu’s father, Charles, explores not only the family ties of the Delta, but also the rarely told story of Chinese immigrants living in the American South between the 1800s and the mid-1900s. 1900s.
Chiu said her interest in learning more about her extended family — namely her paternal grandfather — came after the birth of her daughter. But even if he had been curious, his father remained uncommunicative about the past.
“We had heard rumors growing up about my grandfather, my great-grandfather and my great-grandmother in Mississippi, but it was something we never talked about. “, said Chiu.
It hadn’t been mentioned because Charles Chiu had always believed that he had been abandoned by his father. But during the documentary, when Baldwin, his brother Edwin, and their parents travel from California to Mississippi for the couple’s 40th wedding anniversary to visit the grave of his father, KC Lou., the misconception about the past is uncovered and truths he had never known. are revealed.
When asked if he was disappointed that his family roots were derived from the Delta and not from China, Chiu replied “no”.
“It actually made the story more amazing. When you’re of Chinese or Asian descent, your stories are always expected to land in a very distant foreign country in Asia. But for us, going back several generations back and land in Mississippi, I think that’s a much more intriguing story and it definitely broke the stereotypes of what we were taught in high school and elementary school about what American history is and where our place is in American history,” Chiu said. “And I think it opened our family’s eyes and opened our community’s eyes to where we really belong.”
During the documentary, the racial dynamics between white, black and Chinese communities and the challenge of exclusionary immigration policies are also highlighted, Chiu said, but the intent of the film, he said , is not to cast a negative light on the past. .
“I think my dad sums it up best in the movie,” Chiu said. “He says his feelings are mixed and I think for me that’s a mixed bag as well,” because while the Chinese as well as any group considered non-white knew all the Jim Crow laws, “There were obviously people in the white community who didn’t feel the same way. Our laws are one thing, but people are different. And I think that’s what we’ve learned the most is that people – individuals – are different from what national or local laws may dictate.
Therefore, Chiu said, he hopes that what people take away from watching the film is that people don’t have to be defined by their past, because there are opportunities to “right the wrongs.”
“We have the opportunity to make different decisions today and redefine our humanity by what we want to achieve and how we want to see ourselves in the future rather than how our dark history has painted us in the past” , said Chiu. “So I think things from the past that are obviously bad can’t be changed, but we have to learn from them. I always like to say, ‘We really need to learn and know about our past in order to know how we got to where we are today in the present.’ and only then can we more effectively create a better future.
The documentary film was first released on March 7, 2020, days before the COVID-19 pandemic hit. Chiu said it continued to screen virtually nationwide and received numerous awards at film festivals, including Cinequest, CAAMFest, Oxford Film Festival and Seattle Asian American Film Festival. The film also premiered as part of PBS/World Channel’s “America ReFramed” series.
For generations, the Chinese have lived in the South and for Chiu and his family, this discovery has become “the most incredible part of this journey”.
“Going back up to southern Mississippi where you talk about apple pie and good old southern food — that’s Americanness and we were part of it,” he said.
The free screening of “Far East Deep South” will begin at 7 p.m. at 717 Clay St. Chiu will also be on hand and will host a post-screening discussion.