Wednesday AM August 18th, 2010

A Houston law firm provides pro bono work to help international artists get the proper paperwork to perform in Houston. A movie about one of those cases plays in Houston beginning this weekend. Ed Mayberry reports.

It's no easy matter getting paperwork together in order that performers from overseas can live and work in the United States.  The Houston law firm Foster-Quan has been helping artists obtain the proper paperwork for decades.  Charles Foster is with Foster-Quan.

"The standards are very high.  You have to demonstrate, in order to obtain a work visa status, that the person is of extraordinary ability in their field of art.  You've got to go through a very rigorous process that involves several different federal agencies, and it's like putting on a legal case.  You have to show that you've met each of the statutory regulatory standards, that your individual is right at the top of his or her profession."

The movie Mao's Last Dancer, based on the autobiography of Li Cunxin, was released in 2009, with Kyle MacLachlan playing the part of Charles Foster.

"What I thought was going to be a routine case of just qualifying Li, based upon his extraordinary skills, he asked me to accompany him when we went into the Chinese consulate in order for him to take responsibility, to say that his decision to stay in the U.S. he had made all by himself.  And when the Chinese, at the point, grabbed him and held him against his will, there was a sort of 21-hour saga.  I was eventually successful in securing his release." 

The Li Cunxin incident began a 30-year tradition of pro bono immigration work for the arts, which Foster says is their way of giving back to the community.  The film plays at the River Oaks Landmark Theater on Friday. 

Ed Mayberry, KUHF News.

Bio photo of Ed Mayberry

Ed Mayberry

Local Anchor, All Things Considered

Ed Mayberry has worked in radio since 1971, with many of those years spent on the rock 'n' roll disc jockey side of the business...