The Film

A man with a shaved head, wearing a dark jacket, stands sideways and looks at a large body of water, with boats in the distance

These are not Cambodians.  These are Americans.  They're Americans by experience, education, language. They think in English, they speak to each other in English. They arrive here essentially alone with nothing...  
Bill Herod, Returnee Assistance Project Director

Putting a human face on controversial immigration policy, SENTENCED HOME follows three young Cambodian Americans through the deportation process. Raised in inner city Seattle, they pay an unbearable price for mistakes they made as teenagers. Caught between their tragic pasts and an uncertain future, each young man confronts a legal system that offers no second chances.

As part of a large group of Cambodian refugees admitted to the U.S. in the early 1980s, the deportees and their families found asylum in Seattle’s grim public housing projects and hoped for a piece of the American dream. But, as “permanent residents,” the refugees were not afforded the same protections as American citizens. Under strict anti-terrorism legislation enacted in 1996, even minor convictions can result in automatic deportation. For some, this means being permanently separated from families and homes because of a minor offense—such as the case of Loeun Lun, who fired a gun in the air as a teenager to protect himself from a gang attack.

Told through interweaving stories, in the voices of the deportees, their families and friends, SENTENCED HOME explores what it’s like to be deported along with the social, historical and political reasons behind the deportees’ fate. Along with family man Loeun Lun, who fights to stay together with his wife and children from behind bars and across oceans, audiences will meet former gang member Kim Ho Ma, who struggles to come to terms with his identity in a country he doesn’t understand. Also introduced is an introspective Many Uch, who looks to redeem himself by taking advantage of what time he has left in the U.S. to give today’s Cambodian American youth something he never had—the ability to play little-league baseball.

SENTENCED HOME follows Lun and Kim Ho Ma all the way to Cambodia. There Lun begins building a tiny shack for himself amidst rice paddies, while Kim Ho tries to contain his anger and frustration at U.S. immigration law, and the lack of opportunity in the city of Phnom Penh.

Meanwhile, as Many Uch leads his baseball team, inspiring members of the Seattle community to re-think their negative opinions of the deportees, his own deportation status hangs in the balance of an unblinking legal system increasingly deemed unfair.

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