I got a voice message last week, from the rights manager at Last Week Tonight with John Oliver. He wanted to know if I would let them use some of The Insular Empire in their show – and could I please send them a high-resolution file ASAP?
It seemed crazy: the John Oliver wanted to use my film? Why? I kept thinking it must be some kind of prank. But I eventually got on the phone with the guy in New York, and the request was legit – the show was doing a segment on statehood and voting rights, and they needed some footage. ASAP.
So my next question was: ‘Which clip? And how are you going to use it?’ I explained to him that the territory issue was complicated – and that the people of the Insular Areas had yet to come to a consensus on their political status, partly because they’d never received unbiased education or support for a vote of self-determination. The last thing I wanted was for the people of Guam and the CNMI, who have been globally disrespected for centuries, to have their story mangled on national television.
The nice guy in New York assured me that the writers would watch my film, and that the story would be sympathetic to the islanders. But he didn’t have a script yet (this was on Thursday!), so I’d just have to trust them. I ran it by my colleagues at New Day Films, and got an overwhelmingly positive response. I figured if 100+ social issue documentary filmmakers thought John Oliver was OK, I might as well risk it – especially if it would bring national attention to this issue.
And so it was that last night, the John Oliver went on national TV with a brilliant 13-minute rant about American territories – and he started the segment off with a 30-second clip from The Insular Empire, featuring Dr. Anne Perez Hattori. I’m pretty happy with the results, especially given that they did it in under a week. He even made it funny! And the show is generating more discussion on this topic than I’ve seen, well, ever. But I’d like to hear from others – particularly Chamorus and Carolinians from the Marianas – about what they think. Please feel free to comment below, or on our Facebook page. You can watch the segment here:
I recently attended the March for Real Climate Leadership in Oakland, and saw an impressive and beautiful contingent of Pacific Islanders marching at the front. I wanted to share this heartfelt account of the event, originally posted at MoreThanTwoMinutes:
Pacific Islanders March for Self-Determination
by Fuifuilupe Niumeitolu
Even many weeks after that historic moment, viewing images of our Pacific Islander (Melanesian, Micronesian, Polynesian) contingent, marching collectively alongside each other and arm-in-arm with our Native American relatives in the Indigenous Block at the major Climate Change March on Saturday, February 7, 2015, which were shown on the many photos widely disseminated on social media, and or stored within the repository of my memory, I’m always moved to tears. I’m humbled by the images of us, so many of us, brown skinned, Pacific Islander bodies that included crying babies, youths and elders, mobilized and marching together, enduring the rain, moving slowly but steadily under the shadows of tall high rise buildings holding banners and signs that unapologetically tell our struggles. All of us, together, took over the streets of Oakland.
One of the banners that resonate in my memory protested the often negative representations of Pacific Islanders in the mainstream media and it also reminded us Pacific people of the importance of our original teachings and homelands. “Moana is not a Disney Movie, She is our Grandmother, Our Pacific Ocean, ” it said.
It’s that time of year… and we’re offering 20% off educational copies through the end of September. Use code IEFA14 when ordering from our educational distributor, New Day Films. The Insular Empire is available on DVD and via digital streaming.
Hope Cristobal has been working most of her life to achieve justice for the Chamorro people of Guam. Her personal story is one of the main threads of The Insular Empire – which ends with her passing the torch to her daughter, Hope Jr. But it seems there is a still a flame burning in Hope Sr. – because she’s back in the political spotlight, running for a second term as Guam Senator. As someone with a long track record of integrity, community service, and loyalty to her homeland and her people, Hope has our support!
July 21st marks the anniversary of the US military’s capture of Guam during WWII. After 70 years, the US Territory of Guam still has not had a vote of self-determination – yet the island’s biggest holiday is the ultra-patriotic “Guam Liberation Day,” an irony explored by prominent Guam political leaders Hope Cristobal and Carlos Taitano in The Insular Empire. In honor of the 70th anniversary of Liberation Day, we are offering a free preview of the film, and 20% off all institutional sales through our distributor, New Day Films.
Which article of the US Constitution confers citizenship on residents of US Insular Areas? (Scroll down for the answer.)
There are a lot of great things being written today about Constitution Day – September 17, the day when any school receiving US federal money must educate its students about our nation’s founding document. One of my favorites is Bill Bigelow’s piece in the Huffington Post, on teaching obedience vs. teaching history. Bigelow asked his students to create their own Constitutional Convention – but playing roles in which they represented all the races, genders, and occupations living in the American colonies in 1787. Needless to say, their Constitution came out a little differently than the one ultimately crafted by our (white, land- and slave-holding) Founding Fathers. How different would life be for residents of the Insular Areas today, if the Constitution had also been crafted by women, farmers, slaves, and people of color?
* Answer: none. According to Wikipedia: “Because those insular areas that are inhabited are unincorporated territories, their native-born inhabitants are not constitutionally entitled to United States citizenship under the Citizenship Clause.” Congress did eventually extend citizenship rights to all inhabited territories – and the District of Columbia – except American Samoa, whose residents are US Nationals.
The Insular Empire recently received the huge honor of being included in the Zinn Education Project‘s list of Teaching Materials. The ZEP project promotes and supports the use of Howard Zinn’s best-selling book A People’s History of the United States and other materials for teaching a people’s history in middle and high school classrooms across the country. The website offers more than 100 free, downloadable lessons and articles organized by theme, time period, and reading level, and information about films – like mine – that address lesser-known chapters in American history.
For those of you who haven’t yet had the pleasure of reading the late Howard Zinn’s works, you are in for a treat. Whereas standard history books focus on the winners – the capitalists, the generals, the men, the Europeans – Zinn’s work focuses on everyone else. Women, slaves, laborers, Indians – and those struggling to make life better for all of us (40 hour work week, anyone?) are finally given their place in the academic sun. Plus Zinn was just a great writer – and a great speaker.
The Zinn Education Project is coordinated by two non-profit organizations, Rethinking Schools and Teaching for Change. The people who are carrying on Zinn’s tradition with this new project are as committed, smart, and karmically positive as he was. I am truly honored to have my work included in their project. Be sure to check it out!
Hope Cristobal just forwarded me a most excellent article from the website antiwar.com, about Guam’s long-standing struggle to hold a plebiscite on its political status. As usual, Guam’s efforts to pull itself out of colonial subservience are being met with disdain (15 US senators recently passed through Guam without bothering to greet the island’s lawmakers) and now even a lawsuit.
“Guam may be a forgotten outpost of empire, a resting place for Uncle Sam’s boot as he performs a “Pacific pivot,” but the Guamanians’ desire to regain control over their destiny ought to be a lesson – and an inspiring example – to the whole world.”
After almost three years in office, President Obama finally visited Guam this week… in the middle of the night, to refuel Air Force One on his way across the Pacific. Hardly what you might call a meaningful visit.
With last-minute warning of the president’s impending arrival, The University of Guam FITE (Fellows for Inquiry Towards Enlightenment) Club organized a protest entitled “Hey Mr. President, Come Meet the Residents,” outside the gates of Guam’s Andersen Air Force Base. Protestors brought banners and posters, including one lit with flashlights and aimed upwards. It read “Guam: Where America’s President Refuels.”
When Obama was first elected, I was genuinely (if naively) optimistic about Guam’s chances for change. After all, there was finally someone in the Oval Office who was both raised in the Pacific, AND from a family that had directly suffered the indignities and injustices of colonialism. If he wouldn’t pay attention, no one would.
But my repeated attempts to simply SEND him a copy of The Insular Empire went nowhere. I believe it’s quite possible that he’s not even aware of Guam’s colonial relationship with the US – though of course he should be, if only for geo-political reasons. One can only hope that he at least peeped out the window of Air Force One as he was landing, and saw the signs of protest shining up at him, and wondered – as Hope Cristobal would say – “what the fuss was all about.”
The Insular Empire will be screening this month on Okinawa, Japan, presented by an organization called Wattaa Loochoo, or “We are Okinawans”. The screening will also include a short talk by Mrs. Shinako, who will report on her recent visit to Guam and meetings with women in the Chamorro community. The aim of the screening is to raise awareness among Okinawans that Guam, like Okinawa, is an island colonized by the United States military.
The screening starts at 7pm. It will be held at the Okinawa Prefectural Museum and Art Museum, and is sponsored by Watta Loochoo.