NüVoices Podcast Episode #109: ‘How to Have an American Baby’ with documentary filmmaker Leslie Tai

Everyone in our NüVoices community: happy 2024! To start the new year, host Solarina Ho delves into the new captivating documentary, “How to Have an American Baby” with filmmaker Leslie Tai. An exploration of a shadow economy catering to Chinese tourists seeking U.S. citizenship for their newborns, the film unveils the fortunes and tragedies of the mothers involved.

Leslie Tai, the creative force behind this documentary, is a recipient of the 2019 Creative Capital Award and an MFA graduate from Stanford University. Leslie’s short films have graced prestigious platforms like Tribeca Film Festival and MoMA.

Solarina and Leslie engage in a thought-provoking conversation exploring the intricate dynamics of trust-building with the women at the heart of the film. Leslie shares the challenges of maintaining detachment in the face of personal and often harrowing stories. The dialogue also navigates the evolving landscape of birth tourism post-Trump and amid the COVID-19 pandemic, unraveling the tensions between these women and the adjacent American communities.

Join the discussion as Solarina Ho and Leslie Tai peel back the layers of “How to Have an American Baby” offering insights into the filmmaking process, the changing face of birth tourism, and the complex intersections between two worlds.

Show notes:
How to have an American Baby is now streaming on PBS in the U.S.

“There is a city in Southern California that is teeming with pregnant women from China. “How to Have an American Baby” is a kaleidoscopic voyage into the booming shadow economy catering to Chinese tourists who travel to Southern California on “birthing vacations” in order to obtain U.S. citizenship for their babies. Unraveling the underground supply chain from Los Angeles to Beijing, the film weaves together vignettes and multiple storylines. Inside bedrooms, delivery rooms, and family meetings, the story of a hidden global economy emerges — depicting the fortunes and tragedies that befall the ordinary people caught in the web of its influence.”

Palestine by Joe Sacco
Leave the World Behind on Netflix

About Leslie Tai:
Leslie Tai, a Chinese-American filmmaker from San Francisco, gained prominence through her work in the documentary scene. A Fulbright scholar in China under Wu Wenguang, her films, featured at festivals including Tribeca and MoMA, highlight her impact. A 2019 Creative Capital Awardee and Stanford MFA graduate, Leslie has earned recognition for her contributions to the field.

About our host:
Solarina Ho is a freelance reporter and writer with two decades of journalism experience, most of which was spent at Reuters. She currently writes on a broad range of health, general, and business news for various publications and organizations, with a particular focus on COVID-19. Her personal areas of interest include topics related to China, women’s issues, media/journalism, immigration, the environment, space exploration, technology, and pop culture (with a particular weakness for Asian dramas). She’s on Twitter @shtweet