Five years after killings “Open Season” finds anger remains on all sides

“Open Season” gets an encore screening at “In Search of Asia” at Minnesota Film Arts on Sunday at 3.30 (Image courtesy Lu Lippold)

When asked what reactions have surprised her to “Open Season,” the new documentary on the violent confrontation near Rice Lake Wi, which left six people dead, co-director Lu Lippold pauses for a moment.

“After the last screening at St Anthony Main we had a lot of very sad people,” she says.

She realized that after working for five years on the film she had become inured to the material, which includes video of the crime scene which was included in the trial of Chai Vang.

“Maybe I had forgotten that it did pack an emotional wallop,” she says.

An extra screening of the documentary at 3.30pm Sunday at the “In Search of Asia” film Festival after a strong reaction at the first screening

Lippold says the incident where Hmong hunter Vang killed the members of a group after a dispute as to whether he was trespassing has been largely forgotten by most people, but to the communities involved, it’s still very fresh.

“It’s interesting how recent this is in the Asian community for sure, and every anniversary in the Rice Lake community as well,” she says.

“It’s very present and it’s somewhat I would say, unresolved as I’m learning as we show it around town and people have very strong reactions.”

She says seeing the film has also proved uncomfortable for many of the non-Hmong audience members.

“I think for the urban progressive white audience there is a lot of unpleasant revelation about what I think just has to be called racism. And possibly anti-immigration sentiment that is a little more close to the surface than we’d like to acknowledge in most cases.”

She stresses this was not just during the confrontation, but again and again as they worked on the film she and her co-director Mark Tang ran into stories of racist attitudes towards Asians.

She stresses everyone agrees this in no way justifies what happened in Rice Lake. However they did come upon members of the Hmong community who still feel the legal system did not treat Vang well.

“They really feel that this was not a fair trial, like the OJ trial,” she says. “People just don’t see (the trial) the same way.”

Lippold says they are still working on the final sound mix of the film, and fundraising for to cover the final costs. The plan is to put the documentary on the film festival circuit, and then local and potentially a national broadcast on Public Television.

“But there are no guarantees,” she says.

There is also the possibility of screening the film in Wisconsin, near where the crime took place.

“We have not shown this in Rice Lake or the surrounding communities, so I don’t know what the the reaction will be like there,” she says.

Lippold says they want to show the film to two members of the victims families who they interviewed for the documentary. They will then decide about showing it in Hayward or Rice Lake.

“With some sort of protective discussion around it I hope,” she says.

Mark Tang will be present at Sunday’s screening. Lippold who will be travelling also hopes to be back in time for the q and a afterwards.

  • Sam Finazzo

    “There is also the possibility of screening the film in Wisconsin, near where the crime took place.

    “We have not shown this in Rice Lake or the surrounding communities, so I don’t know what the the reaction will be like there,” she says.

    Lippold says they want to show the film to two members of the victims families who they interviewed for the documentary. They will then decide about showing it in Hayward or Rice Lake.

    “With some sort of protective discussion around it I hope,” she says.”

    This statement smacks of prejudice, if not outright racism. It seems it’s fine to show the film where it’s convenient for the Hmong community to view it or in a more cosmopolitan setting where people are better able to understand. (“I think for the urban progressive white audience there is a lot of unpleasant revelation about what I think just has to be called racism.”)

    Maybe Lippold can inform the people of the Rice Lake community about how they should feel about her documentary. I guess that would be the “protective discussion” part of what she was saying. Or perhaps she believes the people here are too blinded by provincialism to understand her art.

  • Adam Zens

    It’s certainly tough to make a documentary of this sort.

    I’m not sure about showing the film in the Rice Lake area.

    I have to agree with Finazzo that this media reportage here does not do justice to the actual facts of the case.

    Hopefully, the documentary does a better job.

    –Adam