November 15th, 2013 | Mr. Cao Goes to Washington | Germantown, MD
Since Germantown is only 3 hours away from Newport News by car, I elect to drive this leg of the trip. The car ride will start from the southeastern corner of Virginia–some argue that the Norfolk/Newport News/Virginia Beach area is really the South–and take me northwestward first to Richmond, then north through the state, finally into Maryland just outside of Washington DC. I am hoping to see some kind of transition in the landscape as I head north. The drive is very pleasant, with the first couple hours mostly through wooded areas. As I get closer to the DC suburb of Fairfax County, the traffic gets denser, and more box stores and strip malls line the freeway exits.
I spent a bit of time in Northern Virginia during the production of Mr. Cao Goes to Washington. Because DC hotels are pretty pricy, I would stay in Tyson’s Corner or Falls Church area and commute into DC, like many locals, to film with Congressman Cao.
I certainly am familiar with the nasty traffic on the Beltway, especially on a Friday afternoon. Wisely I plan for plenty of stop-and-go time and make it to Germantown just in time for dinner with Krista Bradley, the vivacious Executive Director at the BlackRock Center for the Arts. I join Krista, BlackRock’s development director Laura, and Lily, the Director of Special Projects for Montgomery County, Maryland, for a delicious Thai dinner. Lily and Krista talk real estate, public transportation, and local demographics, all of which I find fascinating. Lily, a Chinese American born in Shanghai, talks about how relatively new the local Asian American population is. Most are immigrants, unlike the West Coast where many in the Chinese and Japanese communities have been Americans for several generations.
Lily and Krista pull together a fantastic panel for the post-screening discussion that includes Hoan Dang, a Vietnamese American who ran for Maryland House of Delegates seat (equivalent of the House of Representatives in other states), Clarence Lam, a Chinese American running for a Delegate seat in the next election, and Hung Nguyen, who became the first Vietnamese American to run for public office in Virginia just a few weeks ago. Neither Hoan and Hung were successful in their respective campaigns. Hung came close in his race, winning 45% of the votes. All of them speak eloquently about the challenges of motivating their immigrant constituents to vote and convincing the other voters to look past the candidates’ ethnicities at the ballot box. These were also issues that Congressman Cao faced in his campaigns.
My time in Maryland is brief. Tomorrow I leave the coast and head inland to Erie, Pennsylvania.
Post by OSIP Touring Filmmaker, S. Leo Chiang