Adele Free Pham
New Orleans, Freep, Disorient, Asian/Asian American fests in Boston, Atlanta, Austin, and Seattle
An exploration of the dominance of Vietnamese in the US nail industry.
The stereotype of the Vietnamese nail salon worker has spread through popular US culture via stand-up comedy and the like, but the truth at the heart of these often demeaning impersonations is that the Vietnamese community dominates the $8 billion nail industry both as salon owners and workers. Director Adele Free Pham, herself part Vietnamese, seeks out the reasons how and why this immigrant came to become so closely associated with nails, clunkily narrating and including herself within the film at times. She finds the answers in the influx of refugees from the Vietnam War and the surprising involvement of actress Tippi Hedren, intriguing history that is not developed sufficiently. Pham attempts to cover too much in this hourl-ong project, moving beyond the sociohistorical to (fleetingly) address present day issues that have dogged the industry in general, such as concerns over the toxicity of nail paints and other materials, and Vietnamese businesses in particular, including racist backlash and accusations of non-hygienic practices.