4100 Redwood Rd #406
Oakland, CA 94619


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Vietnamese Boat People 1975-1981
Can playing a Vietnamese song honoring mothers.




Health: Disease/treatment
Human Development: Refugees, Social Exclusion
Human Rights: Civil Rights, Disability, Social Exclusion
Information & Media: Culture
Politics: Activism

Project Geography

US: California, Colorado, Illinois, Ohio, Utah
International: North America

Identity Niches

Asian, Asian American, Disability Culture


Raised to date: $150,000.00
Estimate to complete: $60,000.00
Total Estimated Budget: $210,000.00
The budget numbers above are accurate as of 03/08/2012


Post Production

Media Type


Project End Use


Key Personnel

Pearl Ji-hyon Park

Pearl J. Park has been involved for the past 14 years in the various aspects of production for videos, print design, and presentation graphics for live events, both domestically and internationally. Prior to this, she was a writer and editor for 4 years. She has studied writing and journalism at Columbia University and documentary production at Downtown Community Television, the non-profit media center dedicated to social change through film. Born in Korea and raised in Miami, FL, Park also has a bachelor’s degree in psychology from Florida International University. She is a member of New York Women in Film and Television and the Independent Feature Project.

Inspired by several mental health tragedies in the Asian American community, she is producing this documentary in order to raise public awareness about Asian American mental health issues and to break the silence about mental illness in Asian American communities. She has presented workshops about Asian American mental health at the annual conferences of Alternatives (the largest national conference of mental health consumers) the Asian American Psychological Association, the National Association of Rights Protection and Advocacy, the Asian Pacific Islander American Health Forum and the National Alliance for the Mentally Ill.

Linda Hattendorf
Supervising Editor
Linda Hattendorf has been working in the New York documentary community for more than a decade. Her directorial debut, The Cats of Mirikitani (www.thecatsofmirikitani.com) won the Audience Award at its world premiere at the 2006 Tribeca Film Festival. It also won more than 25 awards in film festivals around the world and was broadcast nationally on the PBS series Independent Lens. Her editing work has aired on PBS, A&E, and The Sundance Channel as well as in theatrical venues and many festivals. She edited the award-winning documentary 7th Street, directed by Josh Pais; Julia Pimsleur's Brother Born Again; Christina Lundberg's On the Road Home: A Spiritual Journey Guided by Remarkable Women, Nancy Recant's Jin Shin Jyutsu, and Danny Schechter's In Debt We Trust. She was Associate Editor on Frontline's The Choice '96, and on Barbara Kopple's Bearing Witness; Contributing Editor on POV's American Aloha: HulaBeyond Hawaii; a cameraperson on William Greaves' Symbiopsychotaxiplasm Take 2 1/2 , and a researcher on the Ken Burns series The West. She was born in Cincinnati, Ohio and holds degrees in Literature, Art History, and Media Studies.

Karen Levine Glasser
Associate Producer
Karen Levine Glasser was Director of Creative Affairs from 1993-1997 for RKO Pictures, Inc., East Coast, where she worked with young directors such as Alison Maclean and Raymond DeFellita to develop projects. She also worked with more established filmmakers including Wayne Wang, Robert Altman, Peter Newman, and authors Paul Auster and Peter Carey, on both new films and remakes. While at RKO, Karen served as Associate Producer on the feature film Milk & Money, starring Calista Flockhart. In addition, she attended The Hamptons Film Festival, the American Film Market and the Sundance Film Festival to promote RKO's development slate and to seek out new talent. In 1997, Karen become a development consultant and reader for several New York based production companies including: Clinica Estetico (Jonathan Demme), New Line Cinema/Fine Line Features, SpankyPictures (Ted Demme), USA Films and Walden Media. Karen graduated with distinction from The University of Michigan with a dual major in Film/Video Studies and Communications. She then went on to New York University's Graduate Film Program where she focused on editing and production.

Outreach/Engagement Plan(s)

I.      Film Festival Distribution

We will submit our film to 12 film festivals. At least 10 of those film festivals will be Asian American film festivals in the U.S. such as San Francisco Asian American Film Festival, New York Asian American Film Festival, VC Communications Film Festival, and DC Asian American Film Festival in order to maximize exposure to broadcasters and distributors who have an interest in Asian American media. 

II. Network broadcast

The production company also plans to submit the film to PBS and several cable networks, for its broadcast premiere. Vice President of Television Content, KQED, San Francisco, Michael Islip, was enthused about this film project after viewing our last rough cut and has expressed an interest in broadcasting our film at the appropriate time. 

III. Theatrical and Semi-Theatrical

The producer/director has formed relationships with distributors, mental health organizations, national health-related non-profits, national, regional and local Asian American groups and other appropriate networks to launch a full-scale grassroots outreach plan. The film is fiscally sponsored by the Mental Health Association of California, the state chapter of one of the nation's largest and most reputable mental health organizations. They will be using the film to educate health care providers in the state of California about cultural competency. Over the past 4 years, we have shown the early rough cuts of the film at numerous national health non-profit organizations: National Alliance for the Mentally Ill, National Association of Rights Protection and Advocacy, Asian Pacific Islander American Health Forum, Asian American Psychological Association, Arizona Public Health Association conference, and Alternatives, the largest national conference of people labeled with mental illnesses. We have contacts at all the above organizations and have formed relationships with the National Alliance of Mental Health Behavioral Associations, National Association of State Mental Health Program Directors, and Mental Health America. We have also developed relationships with numerous Asian American health-related and community groups: Chinese American Mental Health Outreach Program of the National Alliance for the Mentally Ill-NJ State, National Asian American Pacific Islander Mental Health Association, Asian American Psychological Association, and Boat People SOS. We anticipate showing our film at Asian American community organizations as well as numerous mental health-related conferences throughout the U.S. Once the film completes its film festival distribution circuit, we will submit a proposal to the annual conventions of the National Alliance for the Mentally Ill, Mental Health America and/or other national health-related conferences we deem to be appropriate in attaining our social objectives.

The National Association of State Mental Health Program Directors (nasmhpd.org) strongly believes in our mission and the educational and social value of our film. NASMHPD has agreed to support this project by providing us with travel funding for two educational outreach events per year. 

IV. Educational Distribution

The largest educational distributor of Asian American films, the Center for Asian American Media (CAAM), formerly the National Asian American Telecommunications Association (NAATA), has already shown an interest in distributing the film to educational markets. There are numerous other educational distributors that specialize in mental health such as Fanlight, that would be appropriate for the educational market we are trying to reach. 

V. Home DVD Market

Netflix and Blockbuster, which are the nation’s largest and most accessible DVD rental stores, do accept completed films from independent filmmakers. We plan on submitting our film to Netflix and Blockbuster at theappropriate time in our distribution plan. Please note that sometimes a film distributor will secure the home DVD distribution deals for the producer, depending on the details and the nature of the agreement signed between the distributor and producer. At the appropriate time, this issue will be addressed and researched. We will aim to maximize the availability of this documentary film for the largest number of home audiences.

VI.  World-Wide Internet Distribution

The number of websites hosting films, documentaries, TV shows, user-generated content, such GoogleVideo, Youtube, snagfilms.com, hulu.com, Netflix, and numerous other websites are expected to grow exponentially over the next few years. There are certain ones dedicated to social change independent documentary films. It is very likely that our documentary film “Can” will be accessible via internet for a minimal one-time viewing fee through one of the many sites that are currently hostingindependent films. I cannot even began to enumberate and explain the diversity of options that may be available to us in the upcoming years. But I can confidently say that our documentary film will most likely get a certain level of worldwide exposure through internet distribution even without having a distribution company picking up our film. Our film website has consistently received visitors from Malaysia, Vietnam, and Singapore possibly because there is a dearth of media that addresses the issue of mental illness from an Asian perspective. Through some form of internet distribution, we hope to meet this social need abroad as well as in the U.S. by making this film on the web and available to all in Asia and anywhere else in the world where the experience of mental illness is often shrouded in myth, denial and shame. 

Risks and Challenges Assessment of Distribution

Through this comprehensive distribution approach, it is likely that film will be seen by hundreds of thousands, possibly more, throughout the U.S and the world, furthering our social marketing goals. However, finding a distributor for most independent films is a challenging and, sometimes, daunting task. In recent years the film market has become even more increasingly competitive than ever due to the economic recession. Distributors are wary of investing promotional dollars into independent films unless the film shows a reasonably high probability of earning return dollars on their investment. For Asian American films with subtitles, there are even greater challenges in the distribution game because the American distribution market is 20% less than that for a film in entirely in the English language. Media research generally indicates that, unfortunately, most Americans do not want to watch films in languages other than English. This information is used by distributors to determine the potential earnings of a film. It is not unusual for high-quality Asian American films to wait more than a year to find a distributor who is willing to put in the necessary promotional effort to make sure that the film reaches its intended market. We will definitely find an educational distributor, given the little number of films which addresses mental illness in Asian American communities, and the number of clinical programs in the U.S. addressing the issue of training psychologists and psychiatrists treating patients from diverse backgrounds. 


Asian Women Giving Circle, Ms Foundation$5,000.0004/20/2011
Asian Women Giving Circle$10,000.0007/07/2010
Private Donations$3,000.0005/17/2009
The California Endowment$100,000.0001/07/2007


53 Duncan Ave., Ste 51
Jersey City, NJ, 07304

Short Synopsis

What does it take to heal from mental illness? This documentary film follows 37-year-old Can Truong, a refugee who was among the millions of boat people who fled Vietnam in 1979, as he searches for healing, dignity and recovery from depression and bipolar disorder. 


What does it take to heal from mental illness? This 56-minute documentary film “Can” follows 37-year-old Vietnamese-American Can Truong’s journey of healing from depression and bipolar disorder over 3 and 1/2 years. One of the first documentaries that focuses on an Asian American with a mental illness, it provides an intimate portrait through Can's eyes. As he becomes one of the few Asian Americans active in the mental health consumer movement, a national civil rights effort by people with mental illnesses for autonomy and dignity, he embarks on an emotional healing journey, different from what his psychiatrists recommended. He confronts his father about incidents of violence in his childhood. Over a 12-year period, Can tried more than 20 different medications, was hospitalized 7 times, and underwent 15 electroconvulsive shock treatments. Can and his family were among the millions of Vietnamese boat people who fled communist Vietnam in the late 70′s in overcrowded, unwieldy boats, enduring life-threatening perils. The rate of mental illness among Southeast Asian refugees are as high as 80% because of the devastating experience of war in their countries of origin.

Like many traditional Asian fathers, Can’s father had high educational hopes for his only son. Propelled by his parents’ aspirations, Can was a model student, entering the University of Chicago in 1993 as a pre-med student. At the university, he was first diagnosed with his mental illnesses and was forced to drop out due to his debilitating condition. 

After having exhausted nearly all the conventional treatment options and discovering that he was one of the few with bipolar disorder who was treatment-resistant, Can fell into despair, often thinking about suicide. By becoming active in the national Mental Health Consumer/Survivor Movement, the social and political efforts of people labeled with mental illnesses who believe in recovery, peer support, and self-determination, Can found a new sense of hope and his healing path. Prompted by his peers in the Consumer Movement who believe that individuals need to understand their emotional past in order to heal, he tried to reconcile cultural conflicts with his parents and to make sense of his painful childhood experiences of racism, growing up as one of the few Asian Americans in the mostly white Mid-West. For a number of years following his departure from college, he was unable to work or study. But later, he took up the challenge of studying again. In 2002 after 11 years of struggling to finish college, Can graduated with a degree in marketing from Wright State University. Despite the profound stigma of mental illness, he frequently speaks at national mental health conferences about living with his disability. As a representative of the U.S. recovery movement, he attended the World Federation Mental Health Congress in Cairo, Egypt in 2005.

Among all the ethnic groups in the U.S., Asian Americans are the less likely to seek mental health treatment. Nearly 80% of the Southeast Asian refugee population in the US suffer from depressive, anxiety, and post-traumatic stress disorders because of the devastating experience of war in their countries of origin. As many as 13%-40% of Southeast Asian refugees live in poverty and in linguistically isolated households, but they are often perceived as model minorities by society at large.

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