Tony Nguyen’s documentary Giap’s Last Day at the Ironing Board Factory is a short personal film about his mother Giap Thi Nguyen. He describes their strained relationship and presents their family story that grew out of a troubled time in American history. Set in Seymour, Indiana, the movie follows Giap’s final day before she retires from her assembly line job at Home Products International, an ironing board manufacturer.
Fleeing Vietnam in 1975 with other Vietnam War refugees after the fall of Saigon, Giap was a 29-year-old single mother who was 7 months pregnant with Tony when she was resettled to this small town in Indiana. She spoke no English, but she managed to make a living working in the factory. She got married twice, but Tony’s narration describes years of a difficult family life.
Tony left Indiana for California, but went back to make this film, in an attempt to learn more about his mother and the father he never knew. PBS is screening the documentary in full during the Asian Pacific American Heritage Month at http://www.pbs.org/video/2365733815/. The following videos show partial clips of the film.
[I-SEA Film Festival YouTube] Giap’s Last Day at the Ironing Board Factory – Showing at I-SEA Film Festival
- [PBS] Giap’s Last Day at the Ironing Board Factory: “She worked on an assembly line clocking in at 6 a.m., operating a 250-ton press and making ironing boards, one of the few household items still “Made in the U.S.A.” Read more
- [History Channel] Vietnam War History: “The Vietnam War was a long, costly armed conflict that pitted the communist regime of North Vietnam and its southern allies, known as the Viet Cong, against South Vietnam and its principal ally, the United States. The war began in 1954 … after the rise to power of Ho Chi Minh and his communist Viet Minh party in North Vietnam, and continued against the backdrop of an intense Cold War between two global superpowers: the United States and the Soviet Union.” Read more
- [NPR] A Lesson in History: Resettling Refugees of Vietnam: “It was an incredible effort, just an incredible effort, and when I think back of the role of [President Gerald Ford] at the time, he was really committed to making sure that these innocent victims and people who had been allies of the U.S., that we just didn’t abandon them.It was not a popular decision at first…there was still a lot of division of opinion and passions running high about who lost the war and why did we lose the war and the treatment of the veterans that were coming back.” Read more
- [Migration Policy Initiatives] Vietnamese Immigrants in the United States: “Since the end of the Vietnam War in 1975, the Vietnamese immigrant population in the United States has risen significantly, increasing from about 231,000 in 1980 to nearly 1.3 million in 2012, making it the sixth largest foreign-born population in the United States.” Read more
- [Seymour City, Indiana] Living in Seymour
- [Home Products International] HPI Seymour Indiana Facility (company video)
Photo credit: CAAMEDIA Instagram