Advanced Laboratory for Visual Anthropology

Stories In Thread

2016 / 27 minutes / Directed by Tamara Maxey / Produced by Will Nitzky

Stories in Thread focuses on Hmong Pa Dau. The traditionally hand-made textiles are integral to what it means to be Hmong in America. From the history-laden story cloths (elaborately embroidered scenes of Hmong life that depict the devastation of the "Secret War") to New Year clothes (intricate and time-consuming works of dedication that express one's clan affiliation and pride), the crucial importance of this craft to the Hmong-American community is clear.

Despite the significance of Pa Dau to identity, inheritance, and cultural survival, the art form is in danger of disappearing. Through the interviews of multiple generations of Hmong-Americans, this film illustrates the history and significance of the textiles and explores the modern changes that are threatening their production. The perspective of the elder generation, the original fighters and the refugees from Laos, is expressed in their own Hmong language and their fear of cultural loss is immediate and painful. The understanding of Hmong youth is conveyed by the often apologetic testimony of colege students; a generation that is facing challenges that their parents and grandparents never knew. The story of Hmong Pau Dau is the the story of identity change and perseverance, an exploration of the refugee and immigrant experience, and a commentary on contemporary minority issues in America.

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