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Mr. Cao Goes to Washington

October 23, 2012
Anh “Joseph” Cao, center, celebrates his election in 2008. (New Orleans Times-Picayune photo)

Anh “Joseph” Cao, center, celebrates his election in 2008. (New Orleans Times-Picayune photo)

Take a break from pre-election madness this week and journey back in time to November 2008, when the first Vietnamese-American, Anh “Joseph” Cao, was elected as a U.S. Representative to the 111th Congress – a Republican in a heavily Democratic district in New Orleans and the first Republican to represent the district since 1890.

Mr. Cao Goes to Washington, a newly released documentary about this remarkable turn of political events and Cao’s quixotic single term in office, will be shown by NIU’s Southeast Asia Club at 7 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 25, in Fay-Cooper Cole Hall auditorium.

The film’s director, S. Leo Chiang, will be at the screening to introduce and discuss the film. Chiang is on a nationwide film tour with NIU as one of only two college campuses on his schedule. Prior to the screening, Chiang will share his insights on Cao’s election with students in Political Science Professor Scot Schraufnagel’s graduate seminar. “In this class we discuss congressional elections so this is a good fit,” said Schraufnagel, whose department is co-sponsoring the screening.

Chiang says that this is an important movie to see as the national election looms.

S. Leo Chiang

S. Leo Chiang

“It’s an important story because partisanship and race have been major issues (and majorly divisive) this election season, and Mr. Cao explores and examines those two themes through the eyes of an idealist centrist who happens to be an Asian American Republican,” Chiang said.

The Taiwan-born director, whose 2009 film, A Village Called Versailles, documented the rebuilding of a Vietnamese-American fishing community in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina, was drawn to Cao’s story early on. “The story was too good to pass up. When and where else can we find a Vietnamese-American Republican who represents a district that is sixty-five percent black and seventy-five percent Democratic in the South?” Chiang said.

Chiang said he is looking forward to sharing his account of Cao’s story.

“At past screenings, the film has raised many questions and inspired great discussions, and I am looking forward to it doing the same at NIU,” said Chiang, who discussed the film in a Sept. 6 interview on National Public Radio.

Mr. Cao is the second film in the Center for Southeast Asian Studies’ 50th Anniversary Film Series hosted by the Southeast Asia Club. For Thursday’s event, the club is organizing a festive political evening with the film, a raffle, light refreshments and more.

Next up in the film series will be Shutter, a 2004 Thai horror movie, which will be shown the day after Halloween at 7 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 1, in Room 100, Campus Life Building.

The event is co-sponsored by the NIU Horror Club. The series will resume in the spring with four more Southeast Asia films.

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