Operation Popcorn

Operation Popcorn

Available on iTunes
The Hmong people of Laos were our allies in the Vietnam War; afterwards over 200,000 were forced to flee as refugees, many settling in the U.S. Nearly 40 years later, ten Hmong elders living in California were arrested by the FBI, accused of trying to buy arms so they could return to their homeland and overthrow the Lao government. OPERATION POPCORN tells their epic story from the perspective of Locha Thao, the alleged ringleader. Decades after the end of the war, a video is smuggled out of Laos showing the present-day Communist government continuing to persecute the Hmong still living there. When Locha and Hmong elders in America lobby the U.N. for aid, they discover few politicians care about stragglers from a decades-old conflict. But then a shady arms dealer named “Steve” contacts Locha, offering guns and a way for the Hmong left behind in Laos to defend themselves. Locha believes that Steve has been sent by the CIA, and falls into a web of deceit and intrigue. ultimately becoming involved in a complex plan to launch a coup in Laos – even though he doesn’t have the money or the know-how to pull it off. Using actual surveillance audio and video recordings of Locha and Steve’s meetings, the film follows their operation to its dramatic conclusion. Showing how the aftershocks of war reverberate across continents and generations, OPERATION POPCORN is a true-crime tale of how an opportunistic community activist is transformed into an international terrorist. An Artifact Studios production, OPERATION POPCORN is a presentation of the Center for Asian American Media (CAAM) with funding provided by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB). Additional major funding provided by Cal Humanities.
Starring Locha Thao
Director David Grabias