"Hear ye, Hear ye!" The 18th Annual Asian American Showcase has arrived in Chicago from May17th to May 30th!
All the movies playing at this event were either produced by Asian Americans or star Asian Americans. This was my first time hearing about an event that focused on Asian American films, let alone attending one. It is no secret that Asians are generally portrayed as ninjas, concubines, geeks, restaurant owners, manicurists and other assorted stereotypical characters in American films. I cannot recall watching a documentary or film-that did NOT involve kungfu, or geishas-where the lead character was Asian. I guess the recently released film, Cloud Altas, starred a female Asian lead, but even then I could not help but be irked some of her...forms(watch the movie and you'll see what I mean).
Of the 8 films showcased this year, there were two in particular I was very interested in watching: "Seeking Asian Female" and "Xmas Without China". From the Showcase website-
"Seeking Asian Female, directed by Debbie Lum, could be called a documentary about Yellow Fever or even an unlikely love match, but it’s so much more and it more like unlearning stereotypes and the judgments that stem from them. Debbie’s work has been seen in our Showcase multiple times, not just as a director, but as an editor too, and now in her feature length debut she also becomes a character in the film having to translate for subjects in this complicated relationship. Don’t miss this movie… everyone will have something to say about it afterwards."
"Another timely film is Xmas Without China, directed by Alicia Dwyer. China seems to be in the news almost every other day. Whether it’s about politics, finance or manufacturing, China is so misunderstood in American media. These misunderstanding are further explored when a Chinese immigrant challenge his neighbors to celebrate the Christmas season without any Chinese Products. What sounds like a consumer mission-impossible soon becomes a deeper journey to understand the complexities of the divided loyalties between the US and China."
Since there were no mention of dragons, martial arts or General Tsao(who the h*ll was General Tsao anyways, and when did he make chicken??), I pushed my skepticism aside and watched the first film, "Seeking Asian Female". I am happy to admit I was blown away! The documentary was intimate, hilarious, and painfully honest at times. Two facets really stuck out to me about this film. First, in response to the question, why do American guys "love" Asian girls? I truly think these poor boys have their facts all wrong. Speaking as a Asian American girl, I can personally attest to the fact that we are NOT all "obedient", "skinny", "quiet" and "look the same". Sorry boys, but we were NOT put on this Earth to serve you. And I admit most of the time it is pretty damn awesome being an Asian girl, but when Yellow Fever takes center stage, things can all too easily cross the fine line between flattery and just down right creepy! Like any girl, I want a guy to adore me for who I am, and not for the subtle yellow sheen of my skin...urgh!
The other part of the film that really resonated with me is difficult transition of the new Asian immigrant in the film. Even though I have lived in America since the tender age of 5, watching the young Chinese bride's(Sandy) awkward attempt to integrate into modern American life-I could more than empathize. During the multitude of onscreen cultural clashes, I laughed so hard that I could feel tears in my eyes. I thought back to when I first learned English and how weird the slippery sounds felt on my flat Chinese tongue. I also remember being so suspicious of cRaZy American foodstuffs like mashed potatoes, and the ever-confusing string cheese. I was also totally bewildered but eventually entralled by Halloween. I really rooted for Sandy to succeed and to find her happiness in USA. But as her disillusionment with her life in America grew, I could sense her overwhelming loneliness emanating off the big screen. Just like me, she is and will most likely always be a long way from home...However we Chinese, are nothing if not resilient. So I guess you have just have to watch the movie to find out happens! :) And me, you ask? Well... I guess I am still a production in progress...
Unfortunately I was unable to make it to the showtimes for "Xmas Without China", but I hope I will be able to watch it sometime, somehow. I have been focused on China's rapid economic growth for a while now and I am fascinated by what these tremendous changes spell for the future of not only China but the World. All and all, I am so glad that I attended the Asian American Showcase in Chicago and was exposed to films depicting Asian Americans in realistic scenarios and non stereotypical roles. The films highlight the complexities of being Asian American, and they do so in a honest and endearing way. I genuinely hope my friends and readers(anyone?) will also take the time and opportunity to view some of the amazing work at the Asian American Showcase!
-Ran-A Nostalgic Nomad...
Yangtze Gorges, China-2004
I am listening to: