Three Cambodian-American teens come of age in Lowell, Massachusetts. Their parents fled war and genocide in Cambodia to resettle in this historic mill city, hoping it would offer safety, employment, and a chance to faithfully rebuild some of what was shattered by the Khmer Rouge. But for their children, the city presents a dizzying array of choices — many of them risky.
Samnang feels pressured to achieve to make up for his two older brothers dropping out of high school after involvement with gangs and drugs. Linda loves dating boys and racing her car despite what it means for her family’s reputation. Sochenda works a series of part-time supermarket jobs to pay for the necessities and accessories of teen life — while his mother bemoans his poor school performance. All three belong to Angkor Dance Troupe, a rigorous performance group preserving a world-renowned Cambodian dance tradition nearly annihilated by the Khmer Rouge. Traditional dance links them to their parents’ culture, but fast cars, new romance, and hip consumerism pull harder. Gradually coming to appreciate their parents’ sacrifices, the three teens find a balance between their parents’ dreams and their own.
Julie Mallozzi is an independent documentary filmmaker whose work explores the fluidity of cultural identity and historical memory. Her films have won awards at festivals around the world and have screened in museums, universities, and on public television. Once Removed tells the story of meeting her mother’s family in China and learning about their involvement in China’s complicated political history. Her recent film Monkey Dance reveals how traditional Cambodian dance helped three Cambodian-American teens navigate the minefields of urban adolescence. She is now completing Indelible Lalita, the story of a resilient woman whose body has been remarkably transformed through loss of skin pigment, cancer, and other conditions. Julie received her BA from Harvard University and her MFA from San Francisco Art Institute. She has taught at Harvard University, Massachusetts College of Art and Design, and Boston University.