Monday, January 25, 2010

Personal Stories from the CIA

It occurred to me recently that, if people only watch the first five minutes of The Insular Empire, they might not get a sense of how much the characters' personal stories drive the narrative of the film (once you get past all the history that's up at the front). Plus, so many people have been asking to see the movie that I thought at least I could give you all a little teaser. Enjoy!

Saturday, January 23, 2010

US Military Buildup on Guam Worries Islanders (and Me)

Hope Cristobal Sr. recently forwarded me this article  – it's a good overview of what's going on right now on Guam in terms of the local response to the Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS), issued recently by the Department of Defense for their planned military buildup of the island.

My mother, Virginia, has been doing a lot of work reviewing the DEIS and helping the folks on Guam with ideas on ways to respond. She's a retired city planner, which means she spent about twenty years reviewing development plans and EIS reports. What she's finding are plenty of holes in the DEIS: the EPA, for instance, has said that it contains "Insufficient Information" and recommends an alternative be evaluated.

But the Government of Guam seems slow to realize that the buildup is NOT a done deal - and NOT the only way to boost Guam's flagging economy. The people of the CNMI seem similarly willing to let the US military take their precious land and reef, to use up as if it were a disposable wasteland and not the homeland of a proud and civilized people, and the home of numerous endangered species. Even many of the people who don't think the buildup is a good idea aren't willing to speak up against it.

The last two paragraphs of the Buildup article bring this point home:
"I refuse to dignify this whole charade," resident Filamore Alcon Palomo said.
"Attending public hearings would just be a waste of time because I know -- everybody knows -- this is a done deal. The military won't listen to us. They will do what they want to do."

One thing my mother said to me recently: "I keep reading this document, and I keep thinking - how did they think they were going to get away with this?" And my response to her was, "The US military has been getting away with whatever they wanted on Guam for the past century. They think they can just keep doing it."

"But they're wrong," said my mom. "There are people now on Guam who are college educated and can smell a rat, and speak up for themselves. They won't get away with it this time."

I surely hope she's right. I keep hearing Carlos Taitano's voice ringing in my ears: "Don't blame them - remember, we have been colonized for over 500 years!"

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

A message from Governor Felix P. Camacho

I love this. It's kind of like watching a train wreck.

Friday, January 15, 2010

February Screenings: San Francisco and Honolulu

It's official - The Insular Empire will be screening soon in both my home town of San Francisco and on the campus of the University of Hawaii at Manoa (Honolulu)! February never looked so good. :)

Thursday, February 18, 2010 7:00 pm
Galeria de la Raza
2857 24th Street, San Francisco

FREE screening
with special guest panel:
Deboráh Berman Santana
Dr. Hope Cristobal, Jr.
Craig Santos Perez
Vanessa Warheit
Angela Tennison

Sponsored by Famoksaiyan and made possible by
Galeria de la Raza’s Grantwriting for Indigenous and Native American Artists (GINAA) program


Sunday, February 21st, 4:00 pm (doors open at 3:30pm)
UH Manoa Architecture Auditorium (room 205)
Honolulu, Oahu, Hawaii

FREE screening
with special guest panel
Lino Olopai
Dr. Hope Cristobal, Jr
Angela Hoppe Cruz
Terri Keko'olani
Vanessa Warheit

Sponsored by:
The Hawaii Council for the Humanities
UHM Center for Pacific Islands Studies
UHM Dept. of Anthropology
Hawaii People's Fund
Pacific Islanders in Communications
AFSC Hawai'i
UHM Marianas Club

Refreshments to follow

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

PBS broadcast in the US Virgin Islands

I've just gotten word that the first PBS station to program The Insular Empire is WTJX, in the US Virgin Islands. Many thanks to Dr. Carlyle Corbin for writing them a letter requesting an airdate!

Dr. Corbin's letter included this line:
"The Insular Empire is important for a variety of reasons, especially for Virgin Islanders because it deals with the complex issues of territorial status in our sister territories in the Pacific region with clear implications for the US Virgin Islands."

WTJX will be airing the film on Saturday, Feb. 27, at 9pm. If there any Virgin Islanders out there reading this, please let me know how you like the film!

Friday, January 8, 2010

What's at Stake

Koohan Paik has assembled a fact sheet about the proposed military buildup on Guam. This concise document distills the intimidating 11,000 page EIS document (released in November by the military) into something the average person can wrap their head around.

The results are chilling. Just a few of the many disastrous effects outlined in the EIS:

* Depletion of Guam's fresh water supply
* Destruction of historic archaeological and sacred cultural sites
* Dredging of 2.3 million square feet of fragile coral reef (that's 40 football fields!)
* Destruction of the largest mangrove forest on US soil
... and the list goes on and on.

In addition to the obvious environmental disaster this buildup portends, I think it's really important to keep in mind the threats it also poses to the endangered Chamoru culture. I'm posting here two videos highlighting traditional island culture - they are inspiring, and remind us all of what is at stake.

Despite hundreds of years of colonization, Chamoru culture has managed to survive, largely because there has continued to be a homeland for the Chamorus in the Mariana Islands. Much of that land was taken away and/or polluted by the military after World War II, with devastating effects (including loss of farming traditions, loss of fishing traditions, loss of language, and loss of traditional housing customs). The added land-takings being proposed - and the contamination of those lands - could well be the final nail in the coffin of this beautiful and resilient culture.

So what can you do to help? First and most important, get the message out there. Bookmark this blog and forward the link to your friends. Read the Fact Sheet and forward it widely. Check out the list at right for ways to get involved, and visit the blog links posted here. The more people who know about what the Marianas are facing, and why, the more power we will have to change the direction the islands are currently headed.

We have a small window of opportunity right now to help stop this: Japan and the US are currently in disagreement over how and when this buildup will happen, and who will foot the fill. I will continue to post information here about things we can all do to help as they arise.

Si Yu'us maase, Olomwaay, and thank you!

Thursday, January 7, 2010

The Drowning Mermaid: Hi, We're Guam. Nice to Meet You.

Desiree Ventura has written another amazing, heartfelt, insightful, inspiring post at her blog The Drowning Mermaid. Anyone who wants some insight into Chamorro culture would do well to start here.

She also mentions something in this post that I never knew: evidently, even though Guam is supposed to be "American soil," if you're born on Guam - but outside of a US military base - you cannot run for president. Here's her (hilarious) take on this little tidbit:

"There's part of me that thinks it's funny when stateside mothers end up giving birth here. Whenever it happens, I feel the sudden urge to inform the family that their child will never grow up to be president. When I see an American woman walking around heavy with child, I find myself hoping she'll go into labor just so this fact can pop up and bug her later in life. I know. It's pretty immature. I'm working on that."

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

New Look, New Year, and lots more News

Over here at Horse Opera Productions, 2010 has gotten off to a rousing start.

The first good news - we have a National PBS Airdate! On February 27, 2010, NETA will feed The Insular Empire nationally to PBS. The good folks at NETA have even posted the first five minutes of the film on their website (and on YouTube)! But you can just watch it right here:

While this is great news, it unfortunately doesn't mean the film will AIR nationally... because PBS stations will only decide to air it IF THEY THINK IT IS RELEVANT TO THEIR VIEWERS. So, gentle reader, if you want to see The Insular Empire on your local PBS station, please take a moment to email your local PBS affiliate. It only takes a moment, and it really does make a difference!

More good news - The Insular Empire national premiere will be in San Francisco on February 17, 2010, at Galleria de la Raza, at 7pm. I will be there, along with a panel including Hope Cristobal, Jr., and I can't wait! I'll post more information here as the date draws nearer. You can put yourself on our nifty new mailing list (highly secure, I promise, and used only for The Insular Empire mailings) if you want to have this kind of information delivered to your inbox.

And even more good news - The Insular Empire will be screening in Honolulu the week of February 21st. The event will be co-sponsored by the Hawaii Council for the Humanities, the Center for Pacific Islands Studies, AFSC Hawaii, and the Hawaii People's Fund, and will include a panel discussion afterwards. I'll post more information on that, too, once we have a date and venue in place.

And lastly... a lot of you have been asking "how can I get my hands on a DVD?" Well it looks like we'll have DVD's ready for sale in time for the premiere - possibly earlier - so I'm starting to take pre-orders now. Send me an email if you'd like to place an order!

Thanks to all of you who read this blog for your continued confidence and support. I wish you all a very Happy New Year!

Thoughts on the Patty Arroyo Interview with Dan Ho

Since my first trip to the Marianas, I've struggled to reconcile what I realized were two very different audiences for The Insular Empire: people on the mainland who don't know anything about the islands, and people from the Marianas. The recent NOW/PBS show about the Guam military buildup was clearly aimed at the former. So how are folks on Guam responding to it?

Yesterday I listened to an interview with PBS Guam's Creative Director Dan Ho on the (Guam-based) Patty Arroyo show, about the recent NOW/PBS broadcast. During the interview Dan mentioned that he was, "speaking as a son of Guam," disappointed in the show, because he felt it made Chamorros look like they didn't understand their status as a territory. (I actually disagree with this assertion, but that's not the point here.) He felt that it was a "huge disservice not to show the seat of power," (the Guam Governor's office at Adelup), which would have "provided the opportunity for viewers to see that Chamorros can run themselves."

To me, this raises a couple of interesting issues:

1) The racist and long-outmoded idea that Chamorros can't govern themselves lives on primarily in the laws that govern the islands, and in the psyches of the Chamorros themselves. In all the conversations I have had with mainlanders about the Marianas, I have never, once, encountered anyone who assumed that the Chamorros couldn't govern themselves. The problem with a mainland audience is not convincing them that Chamorros are competent human beings; rather, it's educating them about the fact that the Chamorro people are currently, under US Constitutional Law, prohibited from governing themselves while living in their homeland. Most mainland Americans, when they do find out about the lack of control given to the territories, are shocked and outraged. To my mind, the problem with the NOW/PBS piece was simply that it didn't give enough information. But in 25 minutes, with so much new information to convey, they didn't do a bad job.

2) The Guam Governor's office at Adelup is, when it comes to the Guam buildup, NOT the seat of power. The seat of power, unfortunately, is the White House (or the Pentagon, depending on how you look at it). Guam is, whether Dan likes it or not, an unincorporated territory, and I think it's simply naive to say that the people of Guam could change their political status whenever they want to. Don't get me wrong: I think the people of Guam do have power – but it is a power of the people to organize and resist, not a power that is vested in its current governmental structure.

And on that note - I'm pleased to see that the folks at the We Are Guahan Facebook site have been organizing a town hall meeting about the buildup. Keep up the good work!

Friday, January 1, 2010

A New Year, A New Cool Guam Blog

You know, for a little island, Guam sure has a lot of cool blogs. Which, if you've spent any time in the Marianas (a place that is NEVER boring) isn't that surprising -- but still.

Anyway, the latest cool Guam blog I've found is called Chamorro Language, and it's chock full of great tips on just that. I just learned how to say Happy New Year (Felis Año Nuebo). Check it out!