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―MONKEY DANCE‖ CAPTURES THE STRUGGLES OF THREE CAMBODIAN-
AMERICAN TEENAGERS COMING OF AGE IN LOWELL, MASSACHUSETTS
Airs Month, XX on Public Television
Julie Mallozzi’s MONKEY DANCE makes its national broadcast premiere on Day,
Month, XX, at XX p.m. as part of Asian Pacific American Heritage Month. (Check local
listings.) The award-winning documentary chronicles the tough challenges facing three
Cambodian American teenagers as they grow up in working-class Lowell, Massachusetts.
Although traditional Cambodian dance ties them together and provides a connection to
their parents’ culture, the lure of cars and consumerism often proves too strong.
Their immigrant parents escaped the Khmer Rouge genocide in the 1970s and settled in
Lowell, home to the second-largest Cambodian community in the United States. They
hoped for a better life for their children ,toiling in low-wage factory jobs to support their
families. But life in America is not what they expect. Instead of following the Cambodian
saying that ―the leaf does not fall far from the tree,‖ as one parent says, sometimes the
wind carries the leaf away as friends pull them along. MONKEY DANCE traces the
teens' path through adolescence—from their relationships with their parents and their
involvement in Cambodian dance to their hopes of getting into college.
Linda Sou has been dancing in Angkor Dance Troupe, which her father founded, since
she was three years old. The 17-year-old also has an active social life, and sometimes
spends little time at home, much to her parents’ dismay. Despite her wild ways, Linda
wants to defy the expectation that she won’t finish high school because of what happened
to Sophea, her older sister. Sophea is in prison for killing her abusive boyfriend.
Samnang Hor’s two older brothers dropped out of high school because they got involved
with gangs and drugs. Now his mother has pinned all of her hopes and dreams on him to
succeed and go to college. With help from his mentors, he sees education as a way out of
the projects. When he was in the fifth grade, Samnang joined Angkor Dance Troupe
because he wanted to learn the Monkey Dance – a traditional tale about a folk hero figure
that Sam electrifies and transforms by adding hip-hop choreography.
Sochenda Uch is preoccupied with making money to pay for car repairs and accessories
ccand for stylish clothes. His mother remarks, ―We escaped to live in a place where we
don’t understand anything. My kids don’t know anything about hardship and struggle.‖
Sochenda works five hours a day and eventually his schoolwork suffers, resulting in
rejection from all the colleges he applies to. After this disheartening setback, he
reexamines what is really important to him and takes steps to change his circumstances.
―The Angkor Dance Troupe plays a key role in helping these kids make the right
choices,‖ says filmmaker Mallozzi. ―It links them to their parents’ culture, at time when
many kids their age reject a lot of Cambodian tradition as irrelevant to their lives in
America. The troupe connects them to the past, but it also gives them a way to become
more successful Americans, through gaining confidence and recognition as performers.‖
―Monkey Dance‖ is produced by Julie Mallozzi in association with Independent
Television Service, Center for Asian American Media, and WGBH Boston with funding
provided by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. Additional support was provided
by the Sundance Institute Documentary Fund, Massachusetts Foundation for the
Humanities (a state program of the National Endowment for the Humanities), and LEF
Moving Image Fund.
―Monkey Dance‖ is made available through American Television (APT), which for 44
years has been a prime source of programming for the nation’s public television stations.
APT is known for identifying innovative programs and developing creative distribution
techniques for producers. For inquiries about APT, press should contact Donna
Hardwick at 617-338-4455 ext. 129 or via email to Donna_Hardwick@APTonline.org, or