Tag Archives: Documentary Film

‘Yai Nin’ Explores Powerful Thai Matriarch Ninlawan Pinyo

by Beverly Aarons

The Seattle Globalist was a daily online publication that covered the connections between local and global issues in Seattle. The Emerald is keeping alive its legacy of highlighting our city’s diverse voices by regularly publishing and re-publishing stories aligned with the Globalist‘s mission. 


Stern and powerful matriarchs are central to most Thai families — they’re not big on hugs, but they will “yell at the people that need to be yelled at in your defense,” filmmaker Champ Ensminger said during a telephone interview. Ninlawan Pinyo, Ensminger’s grandmother and the central character in his short documentary Yai Nin, is a matriarch who defies all Western stereotypes of what it means to be an Asian woman — she’s feisty, confident, and the owner of the successful Naem Pinyo sausage factory in Chiang Mai, Thailand. But it wasn’t until after Ensminger moved back to Chiang Mai in 2013 that he began to witness the breadth of Pinyo’s personal power and her willingness to wield it to protect her family.

“The neighbors [thought] I was with a bunch of white backpacker folks trying to grow weed,” Ensminger said of the day his grandmother rescued him from Thai immigration police. The truth was that he was working with the nonprofit Documentary Arts Asia to build a theater and exhibition space. But nonetheless, he found himself and the other volunteers covered in dirt from the construction site and sulking in front of the immigration office. Pinyo arrived at the office and demanded to see the manager. 

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