The New York Times

The New York Times 23 Jan 2020

Walk Run Cha-Cha: How a Couple Found Love on the Dance Floor


The Oscar-nominated Op-Doc "Walk Run Cha-Cha" profiles Paul and Millie Cao, who reunited in California after the Vietnam War. Forty years later, they are rediscovering themselves on the dance floor.

In an accompanying essay, director Laura Nix writes, "Faced with middle age, Paul and Millie chose to reinvent themselves again. After decades of delayed gratification, this time they focused on what gives them joy. As you'll see in this Op-Doc, dance opened up a world of self-expression and pleasure for the couple, sparking a transition from responsible professionals to flamboyant performers pursuing their creative dreams.

On the face of it, a film about middle-aged people dancing might not seem political. But my decision to tell a story about Paul and Millie's life in the present, and not solely focus on their past, was intentional. Films about refugees and immigrants are often focused on the point of entry, when the newly arrived are at their most vulnerable. But it's essential for us to hear stories about what happens next.

Paul and Millie are refugees from Vietnam. Paul and Millie are also working professionals, parents, dancers and American citizens who have lived in California for over 40 years. As with many Americans who started their lives in another country, their story embodies resilience and courage. Love and longing. Separation and reunion. These themes are visually reflected in the dance itself, in their tender glances, when he lifts her to the sky, the yearning in their gestures — their ability to transform adversity into beauty."

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The Nile River, at 7,000 kilometres (4,350 miles), is Africa's longest river. Its waters run through 11 countries and for the 280 million people living alongside its banks, the Nile symbolises life itself. Just as it did for those who settled along the river centuries ago.

Some fear if the dispute is not resolved, the Nile will dry up. One of the loudest voices fighting to save the river, explains exactly what is at stake.

Dr Essam Heggy, a scientist from the University of Southern California and member of the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory, talks to Al Jazeera and explains the significance of the Nile River.

"The Nile River is a very unique ecosystem, it's a very unique hydrological system, it is a very unique water body on our plane," Heggy says, explaining that the Nile is the only giant river that goes from the South to North and through five different climatic zones.

He also points out that the Nile is one of the oldest and most unique ecosystems on the planet.

"The Nile River is twenty to thirty million years old. Today we don't know how we can make rivers flow in a constant way for this amount of time … its existence helps us understand the Earth's evolution."

But a huge new project in Ethiopia has triggered a big dispute with Egypt and scientists are warning construction of the Renaissance Dam, aimed at boosting Ethiopia's electricity source, could cause irreversible damage, not only in Egypt but the entire region.

"It's a great river but in a very challenging place," Heggy says.

"This whole conception that you can suffocate the Nile, and yet benefit out of its resources, from the environmental perspective, it is wrong."
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