Death of a Shaman

May 07, 2004


About the Documentary

As their father lay dying in a hospital bed in November 2000, Fahm Fong Saeyang and her siblings gathered to watch over him, listening to his final words about walking through the mountains in his home country of Thailand.

A shaman in Thailand, Yoon Saeyang had been respected and treasured by the Mien villagers for his knowledge and wisdom. But like many of the Mien people who found themselves in the path of the Vietnam War, he and his wife and young children had been driven out of their mountain village, then picked up and transplanted to America, to the plains of Kansas to live with an Amish family. From the time of his arrival in America, Yoon Fong Saeyang lost his way, falling victim to poverty, violence, and a drug addiction that destroyed his family. What kind of man was he, really? And how could his daughter come to understand him?

Death of a Shaman examines, often with painful honesty, how Fahm Saeyang’s Mien immigrant family suffered through a 20-year ordeal of poverty, racism, jail, and the murder of a family member. A chronicle of a darker side of the pursuit of the American dream that affected many of the 40,000 Mien who came from a primitive life in the mountains of Southeast Asia to the United States, the film is also a moving account of one daughter’s need to understand her father’s pain and desire to figure out what will placate his troubled spirit and her own.

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