A.K.A. Don Bonus and La Senorita Lee | Movie Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

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A.K.A. Don Bonus and La Senorita Lee


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It's the children of immigrants, more often than not, who shoulder the burden of assimilating, of reconciling different sets of values and customs. The hour-long documentary A.K.A. Don Bonus matter-of-factly details the troubled life of a Cambodian-born high school kid named Sokly Ny (whose nickname is the film's title). For over a year the 18-year-old Ny, under the supervision of veteran filmmaker Spencer Nakasako, videotaped telling moments at home and at school--family crises, the constant turmoil in the San Francisco housing project where he lives, his own struggles to graduate. Neatly paced by editor Ruby Yang from hours of footage, this is a candid, engrossing account of the hopes and hazards of the immigrant experience shared by families on the verge of disintegration (Ny's father stayed behind in Cambodia, his mother lives with a hated stepfather, one of his brothers married wealth, the other is embroiled in gang trouble). Ny's voice-over narration is tinged with despair, but his overall intelligence and optimism suggest a bright future in the melting pot. That is not the fate of the heroine in the compelling dramatic short La Senorita Lee, the other entry on this Asian American Showcase double bill. Korean-American director and writer Hyun Mi Oh, who also stars in the title role, has pursued to a bitter end the classic dilemma of the immigrant youth, torn between family obligation and personal freedom. She's fashioned a succinct, heartfelt story that doesn't wallow in self-celebration or self-pity. Film Center, Art Institute, Columbus Drive at Jackson, Friday, April 19, 6:00, 443-3737. --Ted Shen

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