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FAR EAST DEEP SOUTH* is an award-winning feature documentary produced by Larissa Lam and Baldwin Chiu, a husband-wife music and filmmaking team based in Los Angeles, CA. The film is based off the award-winning short film, Finding Cleveland. The film presents a very personal and unique perspective on immigration, race and American identity. The film was written and directed by Larissa Lam. It was edited by Dwight Buhler with music by world renown composer, Nathan Wang.
The film is told in a cinéma vérité style and also features interviews with notable leaders such as Congresswoman Judy Chu, former Mayor of Pace, MS, Levon Jackson, Chinese American Citizens Alliance Past President, Carolyn Chan and historians like Gordon Chang (Stanford History Department and author of The Chinese and the Iron Road), John Jung (author of Chopsticks in the Land of Cotton) and Jane Hong (author of Opening the Gates to Asia).
Far East Deep South has won multiple awards at film festivals, including at Cinequest, CAAMFest, Oxford Film Festival and Seattle Asian American Film Festival. The film made its broadcast premiere on PBS/World Channel’s series “America ReFramed.”
Far East Deep South explores the seldom-told history of Chinese immigrants living in the American South during the late 1800s to mid-1900s through the eyes of Charles Chiu and his family as they travel from California to Mississippi to find answers about his father, K.C. Lou.
Left behind in China as a baby, Charles Chiu, a retired U.S. Air Force reservist, is reluctant to discuss growing up without his father and his family’s complicated past with his sons, Baldwin and Edwin. Eventually, Charles and his family travel to Cleveland, MS to visit the gravesite of his father, K.C. Lou. In the span of just several hours, a simple family trip leads to unexpected and emotional encounters with local residents. Along the way, they get a crash course on the history of the Chinese immigrants in the Deep South that they never knew.
This fateful trip to Cleveland, MS only raised more questions and prompts the Chiu family to dig even deeper into their past. They meet historians and Mississippi Delta residents from the Black, White and Chinese communities who help fill in the blanks to their family’s life in Mississippi. At every turn, more surprising revelations pop up and change their family forever.
The film provides a window into the lives of the Chinese in the South and the discrimination they faced in the midst of segregation. The film not only highlights the struggles and perseverance of the Chinese, but explores the racial dynamics between the white, Black and Chinese communities and the added challenge of exclusionary immigration policies, such as the Chinese Exclusion Act, many families faced at that time.
Run time: 76 minutes
*Far East Deep South is mostly a family friendly film but please be aware there are a few racial slurs used in historical context as a few people give first-hand accounts of being subject to demeaning comment