Documentary filmmaker addresses parents’ marriage, immigration

Staff photo by Clay Schuldt Filmmaker Kelly Huang sits down for a Q&A with New Film Society member Steve Sherman, Thursday night at The Grand.

NEW ULM — Minnesota filmmaker Kelly Huang visited The Grand Thursday night for a special screening of her two short documentaries followed by a Q&A session.

Huang’s film “Unspoken” examines the marriage of her parents, Soonhwa and Chanhom Huang. The couple was married less than five months after meeting. Over two decades and three children later, the couple have learned a lot about each other, but they continue to have different perspectives on their past and their feelings for each other.

“Originally, the film was about my dad’s immigration from Laos,” Huang said.

In speaking with her mother for background, Huang realized her parents’ marriage was a fascinating story in itself. During the interviews, her parents were trying to remember events from their shared past, but had different perspectives on first meeting and falling in love. Over the years, her parents are questioning whether they are still in love and whether they should stay together.

Huang said it seems at times her parents stay together because they don’t know how to live apart.

Huang said after screening the film for her parents, neither reacted, but said “it was the truth.”

In screening “Unspoken,” Huang said she had encountered several people who recognize similar behavior among their parents. She said it was more common among her Asian friends.

“I love seeing people who could not relate, who had parents that were the exact opposite,” Huang said.

The second of Huang’s films is called “A Refugee’s Story: Kham Say Huang,” and details her uncle’s immigration from Laos to the United States.

Huang’s uncle was the first of his family to immigrate to America in 1976. His decision to immigrate was difficult, and some of the family was reluctant to leave, but the death of his sister at the hands of the communists was the catalyst to leave.

Her uncle’s story was originally intended to be part of a larger documentary about immigration, but eventually became a separate story.

Her uncle’s immigration story paints a positive opinion of the United States and the freedoms offered. Huang said it is a common sentiment among her family.

As a first generation American, Huang admits to being slightly cynical of the freedom of living in America.

“My parents love America. When they travel back to Laos, they can’t wait to return. They consider America to be their home,” she said.

Huang said her next film project is a narrative feature in the romance genre.

The screening was funded through a grant from the Prairie Lakes Regional Arts Council. The next screening in the Minnesota Film series is a collection of short narrative dramas by writer/director Tom Brandau and producer Janet Haak. The screening is scheduled for 7 p.m. Thursday, June 29, at The Grand.


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