The film explores the seldom-told history of early 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 early 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 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.
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Far East Deep South
Far East Deep South
Growing up in California, I wanted to be blond and blue-eyed and I struggled with my identity
as the daughter of Chinese immigrants. I always felt like I wasn’t American enough yet I also wasn’t Chinese enough. However, it wasn’t until after learning about Baldwin Chiu’s Chinese American family in Mississippi, that I learned more about the important contributions of early Chinese immigrants in the American South. I became a filmmaker so I could educate audiences about the role of the early Asians in American history seldom discussed in classrooms and media. I hope this will create better cross-cultural understanding and promote racial equity. So often we keep our stories to ourselves out of fear, embarrassment, or pain in rehashing the past. But it’s our stories that make us human and should unite us all as immigrants or descendants of immigrants. I hope to inspire others to share their family stories and document their roots. With so many misconceptions about immigrants, I feel that this film will broaden people’s view of what it means to be American and helps to overcome racial bias. The long-term goal is that this film will help reshape how U.S. history is taught in schools so that it is more inclusive of Asians and other groups traditionally omitted from textbooks.
– LARISSA LAM