Harrison County

Long Beach filmmaker to tell story of ‘forgotten’ culture of Coast’s Vietnamese

Long Beach native Catherine Leatherwood is preparing to launch a crowdfunding campaign for her documentary on the Vietnamese fishing community of Biloxi.
Long Beach native Catherine Leatherwood is preparing to launch a crowdfunding campaign for her documentary on the Vietnamese fishing community of Biloxi. jclark@sunherald.com

The Vietnamese fishing community has been an integral part of the seafood industry of South Mississippi for generations. However, one Long Beach filmmaker believes their story has not been properly told, something she said she hopes to change.

“It’s the story that needs to be told,” Catherine Leatherwood said. “And I want help them tell their story.”

Leatherwood plans to bring the stories of the Vietnamese culture on the Coast to life via her documentary — “Fresh Off The Boat: A Documentary on the Vietnamese Fishing Industry of Biloxi.” She said she plans to have the film completed and ready for film festivals in early 2018.

“I’ve always liked documentaries as a way of storytelling,” she said. “I’m going to use a crowdfunding platform to raise the money for the film because I want to use local people and be able to pay them.”

She said it should cost about $7,000 to make the film.

You can replace Vietnamese fishermen with Syrian refugees or undocumented Mexican workers or the Jews of the 1940s — it’s all the same. I felt with the immigration discussion being as heavy as it is, it’s the right time to do this.

Catherine Leatherwood, filmmaker

“There has been some documentation of the Vietnamese culture in the Delta, but I don’t feel like the Vietnamese fishing community has been well-documented — they came over from Vietnam, which in itself was a struggle, and the hits just keep coming, especially with Hurricane Katrina and the BP oil spill,” she said.

Leatherwood said the timing is right for a documentary about South Mississippi’s Vietnamese families.

“You can replace Vietnamese fishermen with Syrian refugees or undocumented Mexican workers or the Jews of the 1940s — it’s all the same,” she said. “I felt with the immigration discussion being as heavy as it is, it’s the right time to do this.”

2.8Percentage of Asians living in Harrison County as of 2010Source: US Census

Sharing their stories

Although Leatherwood said she has started preliminary interviews for the film, and is hoping to find more people willing to share their stories.

“It’s a very insular community and I’m having to build up their trust,” she said. “I’m looking for families that would like to be interviewed — I’m going to give them a digital copy of the interview so they can share it with their families and have it for future generations — I want the stories to be told by the people who lived it — the fishermen, the restaurateurs and the people who have been here.”

How to help

If you are a member of the Vietnamese community in South Mississippi and are interested in being a part of the documentary by sharing your stories, videos or photos, email Leatherwood at freshofftheboatdoc@gmail.com.

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