Distributed by Women Make Movies
Mai’s America is the journey of a Vietnamese teenager who leaves a well-to-do lifestyle in Vietnam for America her senior year of high school with high hopes to discover the secret of American success. Instead she finds herself stranded in rural Mississippi. Mai struggles to fit in with her “redneck” hosts, and blames herself for their depression. She bonds with Chris, a cross dressing Mississippi native because they both feel like they don’t belong. Transferred to another host family, Mai still battles the loneliness of an exile, trying to create an identity for herself within an American framework that doesn’t deliver what it promises. She is accepted to Tulane but within a year has to drop out because her father cannot pay the large tuition. Following his advice, Mai goes to Detroit to work in a nail salon, joining the ranks of other Vietnamese immigrants struggling to support themselves and their families. The camera interjects Mai’s commentary on the people and situations in her life, allowing the audience to see America from an outside perspective.
Marlo Poras had originally been making a film about AIDS when she met a group of students in Hanoi preparing to go to America on exchange. Although Poras started out with four students, she narrowed the film down to focus just on Mai. Poras followed Mai for two years, recording all of Mai’s experiences to create Mai’s unique perspective on the clash of two cultures and the building and destruction of dreams. Mai’s America won several documentary awards including the South by Southwest Film Festival, Audience Award for Best Documentary and the San Francisco International Film Festival Golden Gate Award.
Subject headings: Vietnam, International, Immigration and Exile, Documentary, Young Women, Asian American, Racism, Queer Studies, Education, Sociology
Poras, Marlo. “Mai’s America: a Documentary by Marlo Poras.” 30 Oct. 2004.
Tran, Tini. “From Hanoi to Mississippi: a crash course for an exchange student in `Mai’s
America.’” 1 Aug. 2002. 30 Oct. 2004. .
“Women Make Movies: Mai’s America.” 30 Oct. 2004.
Willa Kramer, 2004