Most Western countries take in immigrants expecting them to assimilate. No thought is given to their heritage and culture from birth. They are to adapt to what we see as our way of life leaving all they knew behind. At least out in public. In their own houses, they can speak their languages and cook their food. The result is feeling pressure from both sides. Some like Erica Eng know this all too well. She is Chinese American and this short film, which she wrote and directed, is based on her own experiences.
Eng is a teenager who is Chinese America and having trouble fitting in everywhere. She is too American at home, not knowing how to speak Chinese or eat the food. At school she tries to adapt to the Oakland hip hop culture she is surrounded by. A fringe player on the basketball team, she does not fit in with her teammates. No matter how she tries, picks up the language or braids her hair, she seems to fail. Nor does she fit in with the Chinese American teens either. A teen out on her own. Not the best place to be.
Acceptance and self-discovery. These are themes that often crop up in film and they do here. Finding your path between two cultures is not an easy thing. In a few short minutes in this film, we see how hard it can be. Neither of her “worlds” seem to accept Eng (Terry Hu). As a result, she flounders.
Well constructed, the short has done the festival tour and won plenty of awards. Easy to see why. It packs a lot of punch in a short time and without making the viewer feel manipulated. Gives you a chance to walk a mile in another’s shoes. Understand how someone can feel neither fully Chinese nor American. As well, that the Chinese American experience is a diverse one.