Resident Aliens, follows the lives of ‘KK,’ ‘China,’ and ‘Looney’  Cambodian refugees turn gang members living in Long Beach, California, who after committing serious felonies are deported back to Cambodia, far from the United States — the only home they had ever known.

We soon learn they are among hundreds of other refugees who are sent back to Cambodia every year for committing crimes.

Amid the bustling streets,and vibrant culture the three find support in their own community of fellow deported criminals. Their Americanized appearances, intimidating gang tattoos, and western Khmer language skills however make it difficult for the three to integrate and adjust to life in their new surroundings.

The documentary from director Ross Tuttle,  gives insight into the Asian urban culture and multi-ethnic  neighbourhoods of Long Beach and focuses on the stories of three  ‘Returnees’ looking to turn their lives around, but unwelcome in their native country.

‘KK’ the heavily tattooed father of a new born son, makes the most progress in his new life. Having studied break dancing while living in America, he opens up a school for hip hop and break dancing to teach local children.  The popularity of his class grows, and soon the B-Boy finds himself feeding and supporting the kids many of whom life in poverty.

Along with his dance troupe ‘Tiny Toons’ they perform  at various shows in Cambodia. The kids manage to pick up the break dancing moves with lots of practice.
Though the film could have solely focused on ‘KK’s story with his life as the first break dancing instructor in Phnom Penh, the filmmaker included China and Looney  who are less ambitious in their plans to improve their future. We don’t get to learn much about their lives back in America and their stories are not as moving or developed as KK’s.
The film is effective in sympathizing with these reformed criminals, who were merely victims of their environment back in America. Certainly one of the stand out films screened at the Vancouver Asian Film Festival.
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