MEET NEW DAY: Julie Mallozzi

Filmmaker Julie Mallozzi is smiling on the beach with the sun on her face. She wears a dark green jacket over a colorful shirt.

I am a filmmaker with a multi-faceted identity formed from family roots in China and Italy, time spent living and working in Latin America, a Dutch husband, and a lifelong respect for Indigenous cultures. These influences have fueled my interest in the transformative potential of traditional cultural practices in the contemporary world. I always seek to make a positive impact through my films; I am increasingly engaged with pushing the cinematic form, as well.

Once Removed andMonkey Dance are my first two films; I am bringing them into New Day because I feel they still have insight to offer today. Each film captures a different aspect of the Asian-American experience, and a moment in historical time. Once Removed chronicles my trip to China to meet my mother’s family after a 50-year separation – and how I got caught in a tangled web of history and memory. Monkey Dance tells the story of three Cambodian-American teens coming of age in the shadow of their parents’ Khmer Rouge nightmares.

One day I saw a newspaper article about the Lowell Police Department teaming up with Angkor Dance Troupe and Big Brother Big Sister to keep kids out of gangs using traditional Cambodian dance. These kids’ parents had survived the Khmer Rouge genocide and escaped through the jungles only to have their children face the minefields of urban America: poverty, gang violence, drugs, teen pregnancy. I wanted to highlight this story of how an ancient cultural practice – mixed with a bit of hip hop – helped three teens find success in America. My interest in personal recovery through historical trauma grew in part out of my experience making Once Removed. I met the relatives my mother left behind when she emigrated from China with her family in 1946 at age eight. The film is my attempt to make sense of the tumultuous events of 20th century China – including the Chinese Civil War, the Anti-Rightist Campaign, and the Cultural Revolution – through our family’s experiences. In the end the film is as much about the complex interplay of history and memory.

Over the years, many Monkey Dance audience members have told me that they related to this story even though their families were from Cuba, Ethiopia, Guatemala, or other countries. The film explores some universal themes about the sacrifices immigrant and refugee parents make for their children, the alienation between immigrants and their adolescent children, and the deep meaning of connecting to one’s roots. At the same time, Monkey Dance has been used to help people understand the uniquely Cambodian-American experience through screenings at high schools, legal aid organizations, and other community settings. Once Removed was filmed in 1995, at a moment when China’s economic growth began to take off as the country tried to leave behind its tumultuous past. It captures a slice in time that has now passed. The film can help students understand modern Chinese history – and how the past is rendered through individual memory.

Fifteen years after making Monkey Dance, I made a short follow-up film called Dance Family that provides a unique opportunity to follow its subjects longitudinally. The teens have grown up, have children of their own, and are all contributing greatly to their community in Lowell, Massachusetts.

I invite you to watch the trailers of Once Removed andMonkey Dance, and to learn about my other New Day Films title,Circle Up.

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