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‘Blowin’ Up’ at Laemmle’s Music Hall

Judge Toko Serita is featured in the documentary “Blowin’ Up.” (Once in a Blue)

Stephanie Wang-Breal’s documentary “Blowin’ Up” is now playing through April 18 at Laemmle’s Music Hall, 9036 Wilshire Blvd., Beverly Hills.

In 2004, the United States’ first problem-solving court around prostitution was created in Queens County, New York. The court, presided over by Judge Toko Serita, attempts to redress the way women and young girls arrested for prostitution are shuffled through the criminal justice system.

With unparalleled access to the workings of the court, “Blowin’ Up” captures what it feels like to go through these criminal proceedings as a female defendant. The overwhelming majority of women arrested are undocumented Asian immigrants, black, Latina and transgender youth. We hear directly from these women, in their own words, and we begin to understand the complex scenarios that bring them into the courtroom.

As the film progresses, and a new administration takes over in the White House in 2017, the courtroom’s fragile ecosystem is tested and the fates of those who pass through become less certain.

Wang-Breal is an award-winning filmmaker, commercial director and co-founder of the independent production company Once in a Blue Films. “Blowin’ Up,” her third feature-length film, had its world premiere at the Tribeca Film Festival in April 2018.

Her first film, “Wo Ai Ni (I Love You) Mommy,” was nominated for an Emmy, and was the recipient of three Grand Jury Best Documentary Awards at the AFI/Discovery Silverdocs Film Festival, the Asian American International Film Festival and the San Francisco International Asian American Film Festival, as well as a 2011 CINE special Jury Award. The film had its national television broadcast in 2010 on the award-winning PBS series POV.

Her second film, “Tough Love,” premiered at the Full Frame Documentary Film Festival in April 2014. The film premiered on PBS’ “POV” in July 2015.

Wang-Breal has also directed commercials for Facebook, Minwax, ESPN, Vocativ, Verifone, Tiffany & Co., Apple, Nickelodeon, Goldman Sachs, UNICEF, CNN, A&E and MTV.

Showtimes: 1:50, 4:30, 7:10 and 9:35 p.m. The film is in English, Mandarin and Japanese with English subtitles.

Following is the schedule for post-screening discussions with the director:

Friday, April 12, 7:10 p.m.: “Human Trafficking: From Victim to Survivor” with Panida Rzonca (directing attorney, Thai Community Development Center) and Jane N. Kespradit (board member, Asian Pacific American Bar Association of Los Angeles County).

Saturday April 13, 1:50 p.m.: “Where Do We Go From Here?,” a conversation around reentry and recidivism, with Elyssa Caplan (clean slate staff attorney, Bet Tzedek) and Esther Suh (co-founder and director, Dwelle Collaborative).

April 13, 7:10 p.m.:”The War on Sex Work” with Siouxsie Q (secretary of Adult Performer Advocacy Committee, author of “Truth, Justice, and the American Whore,” creator and host of “Ill Repute!” and “The WhoreCast”) and Lauren Levitt (Ph.D. candidate in communication at USC and member of Sex Worker’s Outreach Project-Los Angeles).

Sunday, April 14, 7:10 p.m.: “Blowin’ Up the Bechdel Test” with Melissa Verdugo (manager of programs, Women in Film).

For more information, call (310) 478-3836 or visit Visit the filmmaker’s website at

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