Mr. Cao Goes to Washington

An idealistic rookie challenges politics polarized by race and partisanship.
Year Released
Film Length(s)
72 mins
Remote video URL


What happens when the naiveté of a political rookie clashes with the realities of racial politics of the American South and ultra-partisan struggles in Washington DC?

Featured review

Riveting…we are forced to reevaluate our own position on racial divides, class differences, and partisan politics.
Dr. Linda Trinh Vo
Associate Professor, Department of Asian American Studies, University of California, Irvine and author of Mobilizing an Asian American Community


Mr. Cao Goes to Washington follows the unexpected journey of Rep. Joseph Cao--the first Vietnamese American elected to the US Congress, the only non-white House Republican of the 111th Congress, and the only Republican to vote for President Obama's Health Care Reform Bill. Will Cao keep his integrity and idealism intact?

Listen to NPR All Things Considered's interview with director S. Leo Chiang about the film.


Entertaining and enlightening...a valuable teaching tool which shows how our political system really works...A must see for anyone interested in electoral and racial politics.
Anne Frank
Founding Librarian, UC Irvine Libraries' Southeast Asian Archive
The film would seem to lend itself easily to use in Ethnic Studies courses as well as Political Science courses. Also, highly recommended for use in civics and government classes as a thought provoking catalyst sure to ignite debate over the problems and pitfalls of our two-party system.
Gisele Tanasse
University of California Berkeley, Educational Media Reviews Online
Congress's freshman class can learn from PBS's new one-hour documentary, Mr. Cao Goes to Washington.
Patrick Gavin
Lively and engaging...S. Leo Chiang's documentary is an engrossing look at the bitter divisiveness of the present U.S. political landscape. It should stir timely debate.
Dennis Harvey
Witty and informative! Mr. Cao Goes to Washington offers a close up and personal account of the short career of the only Vietnamese American to have served in Congress. The documentary is a valuable addition to the growing collection of films about the Vietnamese American experience.
Ysa Le
Executive Director - Vietnamese American Arts & Letters Association (VAALA) with all the hot button issues of the current election year in a disarming way.
Robert Silva
Magnificent! Beautifully filmed, compellingly told, complete, complex and moving.
Jonathan Tilove
New Orleans Times-Picayune
Even if you don't agree with his views, Cao puts a human (and surprisingly honest) face on the great divide between the political parties in this country.
Cheryl Eddy
Film Critic, San Francisco Bay Guardian
Like Cao himself, this fascinating documentary has its feet in many camps: Asian and Asian American studies, politics and civics, and Southern studies collections. Highly recommended
C. Cassady
Video Librarian
Mr. Cao Goes to Washington takes viewers on an inside tour or modern American politics.
Frank Franz
Journal of Political Science Education

Awards and Screenings

Full Frame Inspiration Award, Full Frame Documentary Film Festival
Best Documentary, DC APA FIlm Festival
New Orleans Film Festival
San Francisco International Asian American Film Festival
Hawaii International Film Festival
Vancouver Asian Film Festival
Fort Lauderdale Film Festival
San Diego Asian Film Festival
LA Asian Pacific Film Festival
Wisconsin Film Festival
Sebastopol Documentary Film Festival
New York Asian International Film Festival
Association for Asian American Studies Conference
Pursuit of Justice Conference
National Conference on Race & Ethnicity in American Higher Education

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