Sunday, May 06, 2012

Dr. Loong’s Epic Journey: Every Day is a Holiday

Liberated from a Japanese POW camp by American GI’s, Dr. Paul Loong appreciated having the chance to help them in return as a VA doctor.  However, the road from point A to point B was hardly straight or direct.  A respected family man, Dr. Loong was not inclined to revisit those often painful events, even with his grown children.  When filmmaker Theresa Loong finally broke through her father’s reticence, she documented his remembrances in Every Day is aHoliday (trailer here), which airs on PBS World tomorrow and will be seen later this month on New York’s Thirteen.

If you are wondering how an ethnic Chinese teenager born in British Malaya and serving under the Union Jack would fare in a Japanese camp, the answer is not well.  Frankly, it is something of a miracle the young Loong survived.  In his furtive diary, he vowed every day following his release would be a “holiday,” thereby inspiring the title of his documentary-profile decades later.  The collective American media conscience tends to overlook the Pacific theater, so Dr. Loong’s description of the Imperial treatment of POW’s will be eye-opening for many.  He makes it vividly clear these were more death camps than POW facilities.

Thankfully Dr. Loong survived to eventually tell the tale.  Almost immediately upon release, Loong had his eyes set on America, but his road to citizenship would be a circuitous one, involving stints as a merchant seaman and service in the Korean War.  Regardless of one’s position on any particular piece of immigration legislation, Dr. Loong is clearly the sort of immigrant we would to welcome into the country.  He demonstrated an indisputable commitment to democratic pluralistic freedoms that we would want all prospective citizens to share.

Indeed, Dr. Loong clearly comes across as an intelligent, patriotic veteran, with a good sense of humor, making Every Day quite an appropriate Memorial Day weekend programming choice.  The uncharitable might see it as simply family history, but Dr. Loong witnessed more than enough of war, from a perspective not often documented, to lend the film a far wider historical relevance.

Dr. Loong is a pleasant gentleman to spend time with and his oral history is certainly important.  Clocking in at just under an hour, Every Day is an easily manageable time investment.  In many markets it seems to be playing at odd hours though, so it might take a bit of searching out.  Regardless, it is definitely worth seeing (particularly on free TV) as Memorial Day approaches.  Locally, it airs several times this Monday and Tuesday (5/7 & 5/8) on WLIW World and it will be broadcast Sunday afternoon (5/27) on WNET 13.