Directed by David Grabias
Official Selection, 2015 Minneapolis St. Paul International Film Festival
What do a Hmong American businessman, a retired U.S. Army officer, a respected former Royal Lao Army general, a screenwriter of low-budget home entertainment, and a federal agent have in common? They’re the subjects of the thrilling stranger-than-fiction documentary OPERATION POPCORN, about Harrison Jack, Vang Pao, and the shadowy Locha Thao, who allegedly conspired to overthrow the government of Laos from their perch in California.
During the Vietnam War, the Hmong in Laos were recruited by the C.I.A. to fight against the communists, during which an estimated 30,000 died assisting the U.S. As refugees in America, the Hmong have not fully escaped the horrors of war, facing survivors’ guilt and struggling in their pursuit of the American dream, not to mention human rights violations against those left behind.
Seven years in the making, OPERATION POPCORN follows Jack, a former army officer who feels indebted and deeply sympathetic to the Hmong, and Thao, a young entrepreneur trying to impress Hmong elders and war survivors. Their plan was to stage a violent coup against the oppressive Lao government with the help of an arms dealer suspiciously eager to offload AK-47s and Stinger missiles to them. Thao, dazzled by the opportunity to be a hero and join the ranks of a revered ex-general, recruited a screenwriter to lend words to a half-baked “plan.” Little did they know that they weren’t the only ones writing a script. –Wilda Wong
Co-presented by: HmSA SD