Celebrating AAPI Month: The Split Horn Review

Library TakeoutTeens D.C.

Celebrating AAPI Month: The Split Horn Review

by Blair Mushala

Asian American films and filmmakers are often overlooked. Using your library card on GoDigital on the DC Public Library website you can access a resource called Kanopy where you can view films starring several Asian American actors and actresses and also view several films focused on Asian culture. I recently enjoyed watching The Split Horn on Kanopy. The Split Horn  is a documentary that tells the story of Hmong shaman, Paja Thao, and his family living in Appleton, Wisconsin after moving from the mountains of Laos in Southeast Asia. What I enjoyed most about the film is how it captures the daily struggle of a family caught between two worlds. The film exhibits a generational rift between immigrant parents desperate to maintain their ancient traditions and culture while their Asian American children are embracing an American lifestyle. 

The Hmong are an Asian tribal culture. After fighting for the United States in the Vietnam War, many Hmong like the Thao family were forced to flee their homeland in Southeast Asia to America and now over 200,000 Hmong refugees have settled in the U.S. While in America, Paja Thao’s spiritual leadership played a vital role in Appleton's Hmong community. He continued to minister to the physical and spiritual needs of friends and family with several elaborate rituals that bridge the natural and spirit worlds. However, as Paja's children have grown they all slowly started losing interest and started  branching into a more typical American lifestyle. Only his youngest daughter Chia, who is fourteen years old, continues to study Hmong traditional dance and shows interest in her culture. From Chai, who both plays on her school basketball team and dances traditional Laotian dances, to Chai’s brother Xue, who has an American girlfriend and is having a baby with her, to their sister Kia, who has become a Christian, Paja had an extremely hard time with all these jurassic changes in his lifestyle and he nearly lost touch with his heritage.

This film taught me how crucial it is to embrace and celebrate your culture by keeping traditions, songs and your heritage alive. Culture and its heritage continues to reflect people's values, beliefs, and customs, while helping define their national identity. It is important to preserve and celebrate all peoples cultural heritage, because this teaches respect and open-mindedness for other cultures. Understanding and learning about other cultures is extremely important because this helps us understand different perspectives within the world and accept people for their cultural differences. It also helps dismiss negative stereotypes and personal biases about different ethnic groups.  Celebrating our differences, as well as our common interests, helps unite and educate us. So it is important to understand and learn to appreciate other cultures. In addition, cultural diversity helps us recognize and respect “ways of life” that may not necessarily reflect our own.

Don't forget to visit Kanopy through GoDigital and check out some great films by and about the Asian American community.