Sunday, May 01, 2016

The film American Soil, Chamorro Soul premiered last week at the University of Guam Film Festival. The documentary is currently on sale through the website Chamorro Film. Head there to watch it online or purchase a DVD. I'll be posting more about the film as I was involved in the filming of it as an informant and a consultant. It is a very interesting and exciting short documentary about contemporary Chamorro culture.

Below is an article about the film and the director Jessica Peterson.

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Where Does America's Day Begin?
by Amanda Pampuro
Guam Daily Post
April 3, 2016

From cultural resurgence to sustainability, healthcare and tourism, the documentary short “American Soil, Chamorro Soul” raises a number of questions. Painting “intimate portraits of Chamorro people living their culture,” the film features master dancer Frank Rabon leader of Tao Tao Tano, carver Ron Acfalle as he rebuilds the ancient proa as best he can, and Audrey Meno who is studying agriculture and holistic medicine. The vignettes are largely tied together by commentary from historian and activist Dr. Michael Bevacqua, an associate professor at the University of Guam.

“The people, culture, and beauty of Guam have gone largely undocumented, especially to the English market. As a U.S. territory, Guam struggles to be both American and to retain Chamorro cultural values,” the press release said. “Our lens takes an unflinching look at both the raw beauty of Guam and the struggles of its inhabitants to preserve their cultural identity from WWII to the present.”

Produced by blogger and travel writer Jessica Peterson, “American Soil, Chamorro Soul,” was shot by nomadic visionary Brandon Li and Project Inspire star Justin Baldovino.  Though the film is still awaiting its premiere, the trailers have already gathered a great deal of commentary from the community, ranging from excited anticipation to candid criticism. “This is a hot film, highly anticipated,” GIFF founder and filmmaker Kel Muña said, noting that most people take a second glance because, “wait a second, she’s not from here, what does she have to say? That's how you start great dialogue.”

While Peterson has made Guam her home for the last seven years, she admits that as an outsider, her objectives are met with cynicism. “Whatever your intentions are, it’s hard to get that across,” she said. “I made this film, not just for Chamorros, but for mainlanders.”

Peterson said she hopes this documentary can serve as a brief introduction for people who may be visiting for the first time and are not well-versed in the complexity of the island’s history. “Originally I thought I was going to make a travel film about Guam,” she said, “but although the original trailer was widely watched, it got a lot of bad feedback, so I decided to remove myself from the film.”
After putting out a casting call, Peterson spent the last year gathering as many stories as she could, to see what narrative arc bubbled to the surface.

Although the film will not be featured in FestPac, GIFF founder and filmmaker Don Muña said this is still the perfect time to showcase it, adding that he wanted to get involved because, “I know the difficulties of being a first-time filmmaker, not just with the making of it, but with the premier.”

After the film premieres at the University of Guam Film Festival on April 29 and 30, it will also air on Docomo cable, and is available for download from Vimeo.

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