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International Students at The New School Screen and Discuss ‘Last Train Home’

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Last Train Home screening and panel at The New School University, New York. Photo by Tomas UribeLast Train Home screening and panel at The New School University, New York. Photo by Tomas Uribe

Tomas Uribe joined POV as an intern in the Community Engagement and Education team in February of 2014. He is a Media Studies and Media Management graduate student at The New School. He reports back on a screening in celebration of Asian Pacific American Heritage Month, with The New School International Student Society and Advisory board.

Three months have passed since I first started working as an intern at POV. I came to New York on January 2013 from Bogota, Colombia, my hometown, to study a Master of Arts in Media Studies and Media Management at The New School. I’m currently working on a documentary about Colombian rock music in the 80’s and 90’s, and its relation to society, as well as another documentary-research project in Mumbai, India about music as a tool for empowering at-risk youth. My interest in documentaries and social impact films lies in the intersection between the art form itself and communicating messages to audiences. Films that have aired on PBS and which are currently in POV’s lending library, certainly achieve the task of sharing points of view with their viewers. They encourage viewers to question themselves about important social issues and challenge the status quo.

As a member of the International Student Society and Advisory Board at The New School University (ISSAB), and thinking about Asian Pacific Heritage Month, we decided to borrow a POV film, Last Train Home (POV 2012), that looks at migration and human rights in Asia. This event, as well as other events hosted by ISSAB and partner student organizations within The New School, aim to engage with fellow students and raise awareness about the international community currently present at the university.

On April 30th, the screening of Last Train Home by Lixin Fan took place in one of the university buildings. The event was hosted by ISSAB, the Asian Student Society, the Wellness and Health Promotion Program, and the Chinese Student Association. We celebrated Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month with the viewing of the award-winning film and a post-screening discussion about some of the issues raised, through the eyes of the Zhangs. The topics we discussed included everything from migration studies, psychology, western culturalization, domestic violence, and the garment industry.

One of the panelists invited, Doris Chang, (Ph.D., UCLA) Associate Professor of Psychology at the New School for Social Research and a Co-Investigator at the New York State Psychiatric Institute’s Center of Excellence for Cultural Competence, introduced the discussion by asking if we wanted to call our parents right then and “express our love” to them. She referred to the impacting scene when Mr. Zhang physically reprimands his daughter. This was certainly one of the most affecting scenes for the audience. It questioned some of the challenges families not only in China but in other developing countries have to go through. Another audience member spoke about the impact of globalization on these cultures and its relation to self-identity, as portrayed in some of the scenes of the film.

One of these challenges is evidently the sacrifice parents have to make when leaving their children behind, often being raised by close relatives, while they work in factories and low-wage paying jobs in large cities. Certainly, these issues were mainly represented in the long and stressful episode of the family trying to board the last train during the Chinese New Year. It’s the largest human migration, lived by 130 million migrant workers trying to get to their homes as soon as possible for the holiday. In relation to the workers’ conditions, I shared my insights on a recent interactive documentary produced by The Guardian called The Shirt on Your Back which talked about the challenges presented by the Bangladeshi garment industry.

This event is part of a pilot study conducted by members of ISSAB, which will include a micro-documentary, exposing some of the biggest challenges international students face when coming to the U.S. and adjusting to New York life. ISSAB will continue to host these types of screenings in the future, not only to learn from these films, but also to continue the effort to bring together the international community, hoping for better conditions and adaptation to the culture. This will improve without a doubt, the overall experience of students coming to the U.S., and encouraging a more open and diverse society where people will learn and share with other cultures.

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POV Guest Blogger
POV Guest Blogger
POV (a cinema term for "point of view") is television's longest-running showcase for independent non-fiction films. POV premieres 14-16 of the best, boldest and most innovative programs every year on PBS. Since 1988, POV has presented over 300 films to public television audiences across the country. POV films are known for their intimacy, their unforgettable storytelling and their timeliness, putting a human face on contemporary social issues.