"The understanding of a culture comes from hearing the language, tasting the food, seeing personal interactions, experiencing the traditions, and so much more when it is in context."
— Elizabeth Laval & Candice Pendergrass, Sikh Youth Public History Project
LOS ANGELES—Please join us for the LOS ANGELES PREMIERE of HOW TO HAVE AN AMERICAN BABY on February 8 at 6 pm at UCLA. Los Angeles County is the place where most of the film’s mystery unfolds, home of the very special “ethnoburbs” of San Gabriel Valley. “A good documentary scratches your soul,” said the late Marina Goldovskaya, my legendary UCLA film professor.
Where: James Bridges Theater, 1409 Melnitz Hall, UCLA, Los Angeles
When: Thursday, February 8, 2023 | 6-8:35 pm
Synopsis, written by Kim-Anh Schreiber: Dotted across the suburban sprawl of San Gabriel, California are so-called “maternity hotels,” all-inclusive birth tourism packages for expectant Chinese families. Offering plane tickets, third-trimester accommodations, hospital selection (across a spectrum of all-cash price points), and final mailing of a social security card back home, hotel brokers enable birth to a child on American soil. Through a series of observational vignettes, HOW TO HAVE AN AMERICAN BABY traces a network of actors across the supply chain of this shadow economy: motel managers, nannies, companions, and expectant mothers themselves – two whose parallel stories heartbreakingly intersect at the film’s center.
Moving through nondescript, Southern California apartments, hospital rooms, and chain stores, the actors depicted become strange bedfellows in the literal and metaphorical waystations of another country. Director Leslie Tai thrusts her viewer into the immediacy of being in-between nations, life stages, labor, and birth. Unfolding conversations unveil the myriad negotiations each of these actors make as they navigate the byzantine, bureaucratic systems of American healthcare, law, and citizenship, often from the most vulnerable of positions.
HOW TO HAVE AN AMERICAN BABY is a portrait of the Chinese repurposing of the American dream, accessed through the unexpected intersection of birth and commerce. We witness two countries seen through the eyes of the other, fixed upon a vanishing point of illusory opportunities.
Screening to be followed by Q&A with Leslie Tai.
This project is supported by a California Documentary Project Grant.