New York-based Singaporean filmmaker Eunice Lau is back in her home country for the Asian premiere of her impactful documentary “Accept The Call” at the Singapore International Film Festival. This is the film’s third outing, after premiering at the Human Rights Watch and Woodstock Film festivals. In Woodstock, it received a special mention for best documentary.
In the film, 25 years after a refugee from Somalia begins life anew in Minnesota, U.S., his 19-year-old son is arrested in an FBI counter-terrorism sting operation. The father seeks to understand why his son would leave an American life in favor of a terrorist organization.
A former broadcast journalist whose work has appeared on Channel News Asia, Al Jazeera English and Discovery Channel, Lau went to Somalia in 2011 to film a short documentary that explores the reasons behind the civil war from the point of view of three women. That film, “Through the Fire” was nominated for best short documentary at AMPAS Student Academy in 2013 while she was pursuing her MFA in film directing at New York University.
Lau was so moved by the experience that she decided to continue telling stories of Somalia. Her undergraduate degree in Politics, Philosophy and Economics at the University of York, U.K. coupled with her journalistic background informed her about the political overtones of the stories she wanted to tell.
“There are several inspirations behind my pursuit of this story,” Lau told Variety. “One of them is answering the burning question I had of why we are seeing the phenomenon of thousands of young Muslim youths around the world pledging allegiance to a terrorist organization such as ISIS? In the context of the United States, I suspected it had to do with the bigotry they endured growing up in the post-9/11 political climate that often single out Muslim Americans as ‘terrorists’ and I wanted to investigate that hypothesis when the story of the FBI sting operation in Minnesota broke.”
“On a personal level, the discrimination against Muslims enrages me,” Lau said. “Some of my dearest friends, including my best pal from university, are Muslims and it pains me to see the indignities they have to endure sometimes simply because of how they look or having Muslim names. I feel it is my duty to speak up against bigotry through the power of cinema.”
The project cost less than $1 million, the majority of which came from the YouTube Impact Lab. There was also support from the TriBeCa Film Institute, the Independent Television Diversity Development Fund and Chicken and Egg Pictures’ Accelerator Lab.
“Accept The Call” plays at SGIFF Nov. 27. It is also selected to screen at the Coven Film Festival in January 2020 and will feature is also in the new season of Independent Lens, premiering on PBS on 20 January 2020, which coincides with Martin Luther King Jr. Day.