""Golden Venture" is a thoughtful and beautifully made film that both informs and makes us think. It provides a balanced and penetrating view of the complex stories of Chinese migration and the politics of U.S. Immigration policies that is invaluable for discussions in college-level classes in anthropology, history, migration studies, political science and sociology."
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"We feel for these immigrants, we want them to stay and find satisfying lives here, but we also see the concerns inherent in illegal immigration. Highly recommended."
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"A compelling and timely portrait of human courage, resilience, and compassion, set against a backdrop of bigotry, fear, and political infighting, this is recommended."
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"Classes studying the ongoing question of immigration would greatly benefit from the unique perspective provided in the film. "
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"Recommended as a purchase for all collections. "
Educatonal Media Reviews Online>

"Damn near perfect. "

Library Journal, Nov. 2006

In 1993, the ship the Golden Venture ran aground near New York City . Of the 300 Chinese aboard, including a few women and children, most were sent to prison in York , PA. There, they languished for almost four years before being released. Some had died, most were deported (with about half returning), some gained asylum, and some live here illegally. This fine film follows four of the immigrants, along with the courageous and tenacious lawyers who helped them. They discuss the political climate for immigration law, giving a fair evaluation of the problems. We feel for these immigrants, we want them to stay and find satisfying lives here, but we also see the concerns inherent in illegal immigration. Highly recommended, especially for educational purposes. - Kitty Chen Dean, Nassau Coll., Garden City, NY

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At a time when illegal immigration is a on issue in American politics, Peter Cohn's documentary is of intrinsic interest, focusing as it does on the treatment of the survivors of the Golden Venture, an aging freighter that went aground off the New York coast in June, 1993 while attempting to smuggle over 200 Chinese people onto shore. But it's affecting and instructive even apart from the contemporary topical considerations.

Golden Venture investigates the socioeconomic problems in China that encouraged so many to pay the high cost (approximately $30,000) of passage, while also dealing with the criminal gangs that controlled the smuggling trade, and braving the hardships of the voyage itself. But the major interest here lies in the film's situating of the event historically, noting that it occurred shortly after the bombing of the World Trade Center, when concerns about illegal entries into the U.S. were becoming acute- a circumstance that helps explain if not condone the harsh treatment accorded the survivors, many of whom were quickly deported (a number have since returned illegally), while others were detained for years in INS facilities.  

The documentary humanizes the material by concentrating on the stories of four immigrants-three who are now in the U.S. in legal limbo and one who returned to China -and on the efforts of some American supporters to secure the survivors' release from detention, provide them with aid, and lead the fight to win them legal status. A compelling and timely portrait of human courage, resilience, and compassion, set against a backdrop of bigotry, fear, and political infighting, this is recommended. Aud: C, P. (F. Swietek)

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[Gr 9 Up] As our country struggles with developing a meaningful, equitable, and effective national immigration policy, this intriguing program offers a fascinating review of a 1993 incident which spotlighted the issue at the time. The Golden Venture, an ocean-going freighter, ran aground off the New York coast with almost 300 undocumented Chinese immigrants aboard. The film recounts what happened to the survivors both short-term and today. The producers  movingly recount the price paid by the refugees from Communist China in financial (a minimum of $30,000 each), emotional, and physical
terms through the use of news footage, computer graphics, and stirring personal interviews. While the initial incident ironically took place in the shadow of the Statue of Liberty, the immigrants' reception was
less-than-hospitable as a result of the first attack on the World Trade Center. What follows are remarkable stories of human strength, governmental indecisiveness, and a supportive coalition of national groups rallying on behalf of the refugees. The nicely paced presentation features English-language captions of interviews, a useful study guide, and a Web site with links to additional information. The film can be accessed in two parts: the first details the incidents and ensuing political and legal battles, while the latter portion provides a look at the Golden Venture passengers today. Classes studying the ongoing question of immigration would greatly benefit from the unique perspective provided in the film.
-- Dwain Thomas, Lake Park High School, Roselle, IL

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Although there is much focus in the United States on illegal immigration from Latin American and Caribbean countries, other areas of the world have plenty of residents who want to come to the U.S. and are willing to pay substantial money to be smuggled here. Golden Venture looks at a 1993 incident in which nearly 300 Chinese were stuffed on a steamer that attempted to enter New York City.

Almost all of the Chinese on the boat came from Fujian Province in southeastern China, across from Taiwan. They paid up to $40,000 to "snakeheads," Chinese who organize the smuggling operations. After paying, the Fujian residents were told to go to Bangkok (most walked) and then remain in a hotel until they received word it was time to sail. They were confined in the hotel for almost two months while snakehead Lee Pang Fei bought a tramp steamer he renamed "Golden Venture."

Ninety Chinese boarded the boat in February 1993. The "Golden Venture" arrived in Mombasa, Kenya in late March, where it took on nearly 200 more Chinese, who had been stranded in Kenya when a previous smuggling boat broke down. Enduring horrendous conditions on the overcrowded boat, the Chinese survived a hurricane as they sailed around the southern tip of Africa, and finally made it off the coast of the U.S.

Chinese gangs in New York City were supposed to send out small boats to pick up the "Golden Venture" passengers and complete the smuggling operation into the country. But gang warfare meant no one was there to pick them up, so the snakeheads decided to bring the "Golden Venture" into New York City. On June 6, 1993, the ship ran aground 300 yards from shore. Passengers jumped into the icy, rough seas, and 10 died. Rescue operations brought the others ashore, although six managed to escape from the authorities.

Those who did were lucky, because the U.S. government decided to detain all the "Golden Venture" passengers they had rescued, hoping this would be a deterrent to future such attempts. Many were sent to a county jail in York, Pennsylvania, 3 hours from Manhattan.

Detainees could request political asylum, but only two applications were granted out of 145. The rest were told they had to either accept deportation to China or remain in prison. About 100 agreed to be deported, although the video says more than half have re-entered the United States illegally.

Residents of York, Pennsylvania from different political perspectives united to help those still in the county jail there. President Bill Clinton granted paroles to those still detained on Feb. 14, 1997, releasing them after nearly four years of imprisonment.

The newly-freed Chinese fanned out to different parts of the country to take work, but they are still considered illegal residents, and are subject to deportation. A bill has been offered in Congress that would grant them legal residency, but concerns over illegal immigration have hampered its chances of passage, and Immigration and Customs Enforcement has continued to issue deportation orders, although the Chinese are supposedly protected while the bill to give them legal status is being debated.

Using interviews with "Golden Venture" passengers (including one whose identity is hidden because he was deported and has returned illegally), York community activists, and government officials, this video presents a compelling story. It's recommended as a purchase for all collections. As a bonus, the video has an accompanying Web site which has information about the video, the people featured in it, and some of the issues raised. There is also a study guide, and newspaper and magazine articles from 2006 about the "Golden Venture" case. The "links" section of the Web site lists a host of sites about immigration (pro and con), Fujian province in China, State Department reports on Chinese human smuggling, and people associated with the story.  -- Brian Falato, University of South Florida
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In the film's first ten minutes, there is an epic story of smugglers, mutiny, gang violence, a dangerous global sea voyage, a rescue by the Coast Guard, and the imprisonment of almost 300 "bad guys". No, this isn't a new action blockbuster out of Hollywood. It is a documentary called Golden Venture, and it is a damn near perfect one.

On June 6, 1993, the coastal freighter Golden Venture ran aground in New York City with the largest shipment of illegal aliens ever recorded. The 286 Chinese expatriates (minus 10 who died and 6 who escaped), who were part of a usually routine operation handled by immigrant runners called "snakeheads" and the Chinatown gang Fuk Ching, had the misfortune of being caught too soon after the World Trade Center bombing. They were all made an example of, and many were detained for over four years.

Narrated by Tim Robbins and directed by Peter Cohn, Golden Venture is a marvel of composition, a grand comprisal of human interest stories combined with history, politics, law, and folk art in a story that spans over ten years. The film focuses on a number of issues and ideas, but specifically follows four of the ship's passengers in their present lives, including one who is now back in China and another who remains anonymous to avoid deportation, as well as a lawyer and a paralegal who aided in their eventual release from prison and remain helpful in their experiences with the INS (Immigration and Naturalization Service).

While accomplished for its extensive scope and copious encompassment, Golden Venture is bound together with a fortuitous, overlaying theme of population control. The refugees become stuck between two very different authorities sharing a common fear of national overcrowding. They flee China because of coercive birth control laws that often result in imposed abortion and sterilization. Now they arrive in America, jumping ship just miles away from the Statue of Liberty, and are denied citizenship other than as inhabitants of the York County jail in Pennsylvania. While detained, the immigrants gain the support of both pro-lifers, who see the wrong in mandatory contraception and feticide, and pro-choicers, who protest the lack of freedom in such mandating. Additionally they had fans in the right-wing because of anti-communism and in the left-wing because of the injustice by our own government. For such unification the passengers of the Golden Venture should be eligible for the Nobel peace prize.

Golden Venture is a documentary that is despairing and at the same time is hopeful; it informs and also inquires, leaving viewers with so much to ponder that finding a starting point for discussion is difficult. It is a film that requires setting aside not only the time to see it, but also a few hours afterward to think about it. -- Christopher Campbell

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