Thursday, March 7, 2019

Origin Story - 2019 SAAFF Documentary Review

The Documentary: Origin Story

The Director: Kulap Vilaysack

The Story: When Kulap Vilaysack was 14, she took her father's side in an argument and her mother replied, 'Why are you defending him? He's not your real dad.' Twenty years later, she's finally ready to explore what that means.

The Review:
Most people in America have some knowledge about the Vietnam War and maybe a little bit about our involvement in the Korean war. Less people know about the Khmer Rouge in Cambodia and the devastation that was caused throughout the entire population. Still less is known about the Communist takeover in Laos that caused so much death and destruction and left families fractured and fleeing to other parts of the world.

This is where comedian, actress, author, and director Kulap Vilaysack's story comes in. After spending so many years with the knowledge that her real father was out there somewhere in the world, it became her mission to find, meet, and and get answers from this mysterious man who she knew nothing about. The only information she had about her family was based on lies and the nothingness that comes from a lack of communication.

As the director digs deeper and deeper, including an attempt at getting information from her estranged mother, the whole project becomes an emotional roller coaster of revelations that it's obvious she wasn't prepared for. I mean, who would be, right? Her willingness to put all the emotions on camera allows the viewer to be right there by her side as she explores and questions who these estranged family members are and what motivations they might have for reconnecting and being a part of the film.

For the most part, Vilaysack keeps the documentary lighthearted and fun but she also doesn't hold back when the big emotional hits start coming. The honesty that comes out in conversation is pretty powerful stuff and especially when her mom opens up and finally gives some real and seemingly honest answers. Origin Story is an important film to watch as it opens up a lot of conversation about family and just how a person can feel totally alienated from those who should be closest to them.

Origin Story is an official selection of the 2019 Seattle Asian American Film Festival. coverage of the 2019 Seattle Asian American Film Festival.

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