Mulan

Ohmygosh! I adored this! I have already always loved the Disney version of Mulan, but this more dramatic live-action version was lovely.
I am sad that filming in certain locations despite the Chinese treatment of the Uyghurs, raised such controversy for the film. It was the locations that really created the film for me. I don’t want that to take away from how important this film is. It casts an American spotlight on the Asian population and culture. And, while initially based off a very short poem, the story shows just how highly the Chinese, and most Asian cultures, held ideas such as Honour, Respect, and Duty. These are ideas that many Americans hold loosely in their hands. But the Chinese gripped onto them so tightly. To the point that dishonouring your family was equal to exile.
But to me, the thing that I have always loved about this story, was the strength it gave its main character. Mulan, a woman whos only job in life is to be lady-like, find a good match, and maintain family honour by being obedient. That is not the way for Mulan. She rises up, despite EVERYTHING stacked against her, and proves she is just as strong, if not stronger, than any man.
(Trying very hard not to think too much about the Chinese Opera version of The Ballad of Mulan I saw long ago, in which, Mulan’s love interest perishes, and she decides to weep at his grave for the rest of her days…)
This is not “the Disney version of Mulan.” This is a Chinese movie, about a woman named Mulan. Don’t expect a sing-a-long.

One-Child Nation

Anyone living in America will probably agree that our nation kind of sucks. But the truth is, Americans have no idea what it’s like to live in a truly terrible country.
Until recently, many Asian countries really suffered. China began suffering over-population and risked the depletion of all their resources. In the early 80’s, the Chinese government enacted the One-Child Policy, stating that it was against the law to have more than one child.
The extremity to which this policy was enforced was barbaric. Women were abducted and forced to be sterilized. Midwives and doctors performed thousands of abortions. And, as Asians valued male heirs over females, often baby girls were placed in baskets and abandoned on the sides of the streets or in market places.
In America, the idea of selling another human is considered inhumane and referred to as “human trafficking.” In China, these people were referred to as, “matchmakers,” for helping abandoned babies find homes, by selling them to orphanages. Their goal was not to make money, but rather to save lives. These people were arrested and sent to jail.
A decade after the enactment of the One-Child Policy, Chinese orphanages opened up to international adoptions, which assisted in saving the lives of thousands more babies.
Because of the nature of these adoptions, the chances of ever being reunited are near zero. And as an adoptee, this movie, this look into another side of adoption startled me. I have always operated under the belief that parents put their children up for adoption so that they can have a better future. And while I know that that is not always true, I had never once entertained the idea that parents might be forced by their government, to the extent of having their children taken away, to be adopted just to survive. My own cousins, adopted from China during this policy, both happy, healthy, beautiful girls. I can’t help wondering if this policy played a part in their being adopted…
In 2015, China realized that with so few children there would be too few to take care of the elderly, a custom in many Asian countries. They declaired that at the beginning of 2016, families would be allowed, and encouraged, to have two children.

Mad World

Just watched this movie, Mad World, and it was really good.
Working where I do, mental health isn’t a mystery to me. I understand it, but for a lot of people, it is the invisible illness. People would rather not acknowledge it. And sometimes, entire countries fall into that category.
This movie, about a Chinese man with Bipolar Disorder, shows how other countries views on mental health can be extremely different from ours. After being discharged from a mental health facility, he is unable to reintegrate into society. He is seen no better than a murderer released from jail.
But, first and foremost, this movie is about a man’s struggles with Bipolar Disorder. Having been discharged from the facility, he moves in with his estranged father. The tension between them is obvious. The father, while wanting to make ammends for his absence, does not know how to care for and understand his son. We see the, “just take your medications,” and the, “why can’t you just TRY to be happy,”s that are the textbook responses of someone who truly doesn’t understand mental illness.
Through out the film we are peppered with the young man’s memories of taking care of his ailing mother. Abandoned by his brother and father, he alone was left to do it. And it is extrordinarily difficult for him. Perhaps burdened by the tradition of respecting and taking care of elders, he refused to place her in a home. Just as the father is burdened with the choice of sending him back to the facility, and risk their relationship forever, or continuing to try and care for him himself.
This film opens one’s eyes a little bit into the world of mental health. How it’s not easy, how disruptive it can be to one’s life. And how important it is to have love and support for those who suffer from mental illness.

The Farewell

Last night I went and saw The Farewell. Pre show, the woman working at the theater told us how difficult it was for Lulu Wang to get people to produce her film. But it was a story she desperately wanted to tell. When she finally did find producers, she wanted people to understand that The Farewell isn’t a “Chinese movie,” but it also isn’t an “American movie.” At first, it’s hard to imagine what exactly that means, but after watching this film, I get it.
Yes, there are subtitles. And majority of the movie takes place in China. But it truly was not a “Chinese movie.”
We follow a woman, Billi, who is based off the director. She is a Chinese-American who has grown up in New York since she was 6. When her beloved Grandmother is diagnosed with terminal cancer, she goes back to China.
To me, it didn’t so much as feel like a story about a dying Grandmother, as a story about an American woman trying to understand Chinese culture.
The main conflict of the story is in the very long standing tradition of family members not telling their elders that they are dying. In essence, to allow them to die in peace, and for the family to bear the emotional burden. Billi struggles to understand this concept.
The film takes us through various other customs and traditions of Chinese people. While disappointing to hear some of my fellow viewers laugh at the ridiculousness of some of these traditions, for instance a scene in which the whole family goes to Grandpas grave to pay their respects. If you don’t know the process, it is vastly different than how most Americans pay respect at graves..
It is a movie about Chinese customs and life, seen through the eyes of an American. Billi encounters various locals who excitedly ask her about America, if it’s as amazing as they’d always heard. As an American, it is interesting to see how other countries still see America as being such a land of opportunity and freedom.
In a time when Asians are finally starting to get their time in the light, I think this movie was perfect. It wasn’t a “Chinese movie,” but it also wasn’t an “American movie.”
And I highly recommend it for anyone who wants to understand some of the longer standing customs and traditions of another culture.

On the Basis of Sex

So amazing. The sheer adversity, this tiny, vicious tiger of a woman, climbed mountains for her cause. And honestly, she had the most wonderful and supportive husband. She supported him, and herself both thru law school when he was diagnosed with cancer. And he supported and whole heartedly believed in her thru her career. And given a 5% chance of survival, he fought. He lived on for decades to support her, and was able to finally see her be appointed a Supreme Court Justice.
I fully admit, I have a hard time following politics, but i know human rights. And in this time, when it feels like our nation is falling apart, how can it not bring feelings of hope to know there are people in it like Ruth Bader Ginsburg? Where being Female, and being Asian feel more like a status than a truth, she fought for a change in the precident. And won.
Her life is too extraordinary. This film was just a snapshot. The beginning. Like the prequel to a most relevant and real Superhero.
(…and I teared up a little at the end…)

Three Identical Strangers

What an absolutely, absolutely facinating movie! What a roller coaster ride. The story of triplets, separated at birth, and adopted to 3 different families. And how they found eachother, almost fantastically.
But more than that, it is a movie that delves deep into the psychological aspects of adoption. The age old question of Nature vs. Nurture. And even the aspects of psychological disorder among adoptees. Separation issues, depression, etc.
But the deepest issue of all, how morally and ethically wrong, and Effed up psychology studies were half a century ago. The lengths we would go to just to better understand ourselves.

This might be boring for some, but this documentary was my cup of tea, and a biscuit on the side. Psychology, and Adoption, and the Psychology of Adoption..

Leave no Trace

Finally watched this one.
A father and daughter living in Forest Park, near Portland, Oregon. Filmed in various locations around Oregon itself.
Based on a book. The author admits to basing it on a real story. He’d read a newspaper article about a father and daughter found living in Forest Park. Another article came out saying they had been relocated to a farm, the father had work, and the daughter was to start middle school. Happy ending. But then a third article came out about how they had vanished. He never heard anything more. And out of his own need to find this story’s resolution, he wrote My Abandonment, which was then made into the movie Leave No Trace..
But isnt that the most glorious motivation of a true writer? To seek out endings…