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The Phans of Jersey City

USA, 1981 (MIFF 1982)

Director: Abbie H. Fink, Stephen L. Forman, John N. Fraker, Dennis Lanson

The Phans of Jersey City is a documentary that estranges the U.S. by presenting it through the immigrant eyes of an upper-class South Vietnamese clan, who use menial jobs and family solidarity to work their inevitable way toward Hamburger Heaven. The 20 Phans are hardly boat people; one suspects that Colonel Phan and family were halfway to New Jersey while still in Saigon. American culture isn't totally foreign to them: the sons drive flashy cars complete with CBs, the other children disco dance to the BeeGees, and the house is sprinkled with cheap, transistorized televisions. The film is studded with unsettling poetic images: the colonel and his wife dancing a slow tango in their living room, the family wandering through the Paramus Mall as though it were the Louvre.

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