Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Underground Railroad Film Series:ANOTHER AMERICA by Michael Cho

The Langston Hughes African American Film Festival Underground Railroad Film Series presents ANOTHER AMERICA by Michael Cho. Thursday, February 21, 2008 at 7:00 p.m. - $5.oo suggested donation at the door (no advance ticket sales). Event location: Theater Off Jackson, 409 7th Avenue S., Seattle,in the heart of the International District. LHAFF Info Line: tel. (206)326-1088.

Filmmaker Michael Cho investigates his own family history and tragedy as he explores the Black/Korean conflict in the inner city as illuminated by the Los Angeles uprisings of 1992.

The murder of his uncle in Detroit forces Cho to take a close look at his family’s own experiences as Korean American merchants. In L.A., he captures the stories of everyday Korean and African Americans as they shop in the mall. Returning to his hometown of Detroit, Cho lets local community members and relatives tell their own stories about race relations -- a Detroit poet, an Amerasian brother and sister, and the daughter of the slain uncle. ANOTHER AMERICA is revealed, one where dreams have fallen short and where this country’s racism and violence continue unchecked.

In the article News at Eleven in the Big City[1], published in the film journal Wide Angle, Cho wrote:

"In Another America, a documentary that I produced about the relationship between Korean American merchants and African Americans in the inner city, I looked at the murder of one of my uncles, an immigrant from Korea, during a robbery at his store in downtown Detroit. When he was murdered, my father, also a downtown merchant, called the local television news stations to have them cover my uncle's death. He wanted to tell them a larger story about how the city had fallen apart under the weight of its abandonment and how this was connected to my uncle's murder. Instead, the TV news programs told a tragic story of a family victimized by a random crime. The emotions were there in their report, but little context. Their coverage undoubtedly moved many who watched the news that night. But did it inform them?

Everyday, we witness other people's tragedies on television. Sometimes, their stories have an impact. Most other times, they are swallowed by anonymity and apathy and buried amongst the thousands of other tragedies broadcast everyday across the television spectrum. Then, one day I see my own family on television. Their grief shouts out to the viewers to wake up and see what's happening in their city. But in three minutes, it's over. There was little follow-up to my family's story. Soon other tragedies would displace ours.

As an independent filmmaker, I took on the job of pushing beyond what was covered by the local news. Like my father, I also wanted to tell a story of cities and the people who live in them. Behind my uncle's death, there was another story not told on television news. Behind the much televised conflict between Korean Americans and African Americans, there was another story. In Another America, I related how the deterioration of the inner city affects both groups. I looked at some of their history in this country. I explored the common economic and social issues that concern both communities. I examined how crime does not occur in a vacuum. TV news presents fear in the guise of delivering information. I wanted to promote understanding by telling the stories behind the story. I wanted the viewer to get to know a part of their city that they may never visit and to understand its peoples."

The Underground Railroad, a project of the annual Langston Hughes African American Film Festival, is a fall - through -winter film and discussion series. Using the metaphor of a series of strategically located “Safe Houses” in Seattle neighborhoods, the Underground Railroad is a series of intimate screenings designed to build community across the aisle and across neighborhoods. Each Safe House along the trail brings forth a different provocative work about African American life, leading to ‘freedom at the annual Langston Hughes African American Film Festival in April. Join us at the Langston Hughes Performing Arts Center, 104 – 17th Avenue South, April 12-20, 2008 for the annual Langston Hughes African American Film Festival!

[1] Wide Angle - Volume 20, Number 3, July 1998, pp. 145-149.