Underpass Trailer: CLICK HERE (18mb, mp4)
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Underpass began as a feature screenplay (City Heights) about my personal experiences in high school. I attended one of the most diverse schools in the country - a school that was home to students recently come to the US from Afghanistan, Somalia, Ethiopia, Cambodia, Burma, Vietnam, Laos, Mexico, China, the list goes on. Almost every student at the school had experienced war, genocide and/or impossibly inhuman living conditions first-hand, and had survived it with their families.
I was one of the few white, American students in the school. And yet, in a way, I had less than my classmates. My mom and I were alone, struggling every day to eat, maintain dignity, and survive. But I had three close friends - one from Cambodia, one from Vietnam and one from Afghanistan - whose families welcomed me, opened their hearts to me, and gave me a sense of home and community.
Underpass morphed dramatically through production and during editing. The original story was about the relationship between the two girls - the outsider, Ana, and the daughter of the Cambodian family. In searching for an actress to play the mother in the film, however, I was fortunate enough to be able to cast Mony Sing, a non-actress who responded to a research request I posted on a Cambodian community list-serv. Mony is an actual Khmer Rouge survivor, and her willingness to share her memories really impacted our entire cast and crew. She brought so much to this film that it changed in her presence - it became a story of the relationship between mother and son.
More than anything, this film has been an emotional journey for me. In many ways, my own personal story has made it onto the screen (heavily disguised in the form of a story about a Cambodian family that survived genocide). The more personal this film became, the more important the crew, especially Mary Posatko (producer), Andrew Huang (animator), Akkara Srauy (production designer and consultant) and Charlene Sun (cinematographer), became in really helping me clearly identify the story and emotional beats we were trying to put on the screen. This film has been a genuine collaboration, and it has been an honor to work with an entire crew that willingly jumped in on the challenge to create an emotionally charged 15 minute film on a miniscule budget.
The opportunity to bring stories like Underpass to life is exactly why I am making films. It is a chance to lift people, to reveal just how much impact we have on each other as human beings, and how connected each person is to each other.
I look forward to sharing this film with audiences at festivals, and am looking forward to springing from this film to its feature version, City Heights, which focuses on an Afghani family and the daughter's American girl-friend.