LOS ANGELES, Apr 04, 2012 — El Monte, an animated short film depicting the true-life harrowing story of 72 Thai laborers who were held captive and forced to work 18-hour days for many years in a Southern California sweatshop, has been selected for screening at the 28th annual Los Angeles Asian Pacific Film Festival, the premier showcase for the best and brightest of Asian American and Asian international cinema. The 28th annual Los Angeles Asian Pacific Film Festival runs May 10-20 at the Directors Guild of America, CGV Cinemas and additional venues throughout Los Angeles.
Produced by Harvard Westlake honors student, Elaine Tang, 17, El Monte will be screened on Saturday, May 12 at 12:30 p.m. at the CGV Cinemas located at 621 South Western Avenue in Los Angeles’ Koreatown.
Tang, who is fluent in English, Chinese and French and also excels in the arts, was working as a volunteer at APALC (Asian Pacific American Legal Center), when she first became aware of the plight of the Thai immigrants.
“When I learned of these Thai immigrants — making the difficult decision to leave their families in pursuit of a better life; their imprisonment in what can only be described as a labor camp; and the generosity of community advocates and lawyers who fought for them — I was filled with emotion,” said Tang. “I knew in that instant that I needed to make more people aware of this story as well as of the challenges faced by so many Asian American immigrants in pursuit of the American dream and the incredible role that the APALC plays in this process.”
Wanting to capture the tragic and compelling experiences of people like the El Monte sweatshop workers and demonstrate APALC’s role in the community to young people and those new to the legal center, Tang decided to create an animated short feature film.
“I knew that the costs would be astronomical in Los Angeles, so I approached the leading animation company in Beijing, Xing Xing Digital, to take on the project pro bono,” said Tang.
After several meetings with Xing Xing Digital CEO Lifeng Wang, during which Tang expressed the urgency to help protect Asian Americans so that further injustices could be prevented, Wang agreed to help Tang with her project. In June 2011, she reported for her summer internship with Xing Xing in Beijing while also studying advanced Chinese at Peking University.
Spending her mornings in class and her afternoons interning at the Xing Xing animation studio, Tang was not only learning the animation process, she was also translating technical cinematic terms while also explaining the significance of the El Monte story to her production team who only spoke Chinese. Tang and her team created the storyboards, contacted the actual garment workers from the El Monte case to do the voice-overs, and produced the short animation recounting the El Monte story.
Says Tang, “Through this film, I hope to give a voice to those previously unheard and to inspire all to uphold justice.”