A groundbreaking documentary on the deportation of U.S. veterans from WKAR Public Media at Michigan State University and filmmakers John J. Valadez and Carleen L. Hsu will air nationally on PBS in primetime. Filmed over seven years, American Exile is the story of two unlikely war hero brothers who became veteran’s rights activists after being threatened with deportation and learning that thousands of veterans are being rounded up and deported.
American Exile premieres as part of Latino Public Broadcasting’s VOCES series on Tuesday, November 16, 2021, from 10:00 – 11:00 p.m. ET on PBS, WKAR, pbs.org and the PBS Video app as part of PBS’s commemoration of Veteran’s Day.
American Exile was produced by MSU professors of practice John J. Valadez and Carleen L. Hsu and is presented by WKAR Public Media at MSU. The national primetime broadcast on PBS has an estimated potential audience of seven million people.
“It’s a remarkable achievement that American Exile was produced by MSU faculty and students, and will air in communities across the country,” said Susi Elkins, WKAR director of broadcasting and general manager. “This film tells an important story of courage and resilience, and WKAR is proud to present this work, ensuring these stories are told across the PBS network.”
Fifty years ago, Valente and Manuel Valenzuela both volunteered and fought in Vietnam. They returned home decorated and disabled. Now approaching their 70s, they decide to don their uniforms for one last fight to bring deported veterans and their families back home. It’s a mission that will leave one brother exiled in a foreign land while the other will go all the way to the White House. Their fight would eventually help change national policy and the lives of veterans and their families across the nation.
WKAR and MSU School of Journalism, Film Studies Program, Chicano/Latino Studies Program, and community partners invite the public to join the conversation at a special preview screening of the film on Veterans Day, Thursday, November 11 at 7:00 p.m. ET, ahead of the national broadcast on PBS.
Elkins will host the in-person event, which includes comments from MSU President Samuel L. Stanley Jr., M.D., presentation of the full hour-long film, and panel discussion with Vietnam combat veteran Manuel Valenzuela and Gold Star mother Olivia Segura, both of whom appear in the film. Joining them will be filmmakers Valadez and Hsu. The discussion will be moderated by Prabu David, dean of the College of Communication Arts and Sciences at MSU.
The in-person event will be held in the WKAR studios on the MSU campus and will also be streamed live. Free registration is required for limited in-person seating. For more information and to RSVP, visit American Exile | Film Preview at WKAR.
Valadez and Hsu are professors of practice at Michigan State University’s School of Journalism and Film Studies. Valadez is a Peabody Award-winning filmmaker who has directed a dozen nationally broadcast documentary films for PBS and CNN. Hsu has produced and co-produced long-form non-fiction films for HBO, PBS, Learning Channel, BBC, CBS and Channel 4 UK.
As Hsu and Valadez worked on American Exile, they helped lead a congressional briefing on deported veterans and spoke with lawmakers and staff about the impact deportation is having on military veterans and their families.
“Our hope was that the research from the making of the film would help inform elected officials so American families and communities devastated by deportation might be made whole again,” said Valadez.
On July. 2, 2021, the Biden administration halted veteran deportations and ordered the Department of Homeland Security to track down those who have been deported and to create a process for deported veterans and their families to return home to the U.S. as part of an effort to provide a pathway to citizenship.
“This film that has shaped national policy and even more importantly has saved lives,” said Hsu. “Together [as a college campus], we’ve played a pivotal role in bringing thoughtful, fact-based journalism to the national public discourse and have improved the lives of veterans and their families across the nation.”