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Great Wall (A)

"A Great Wall," a human comedy co-produced by Shirley Sun, a SF filmmaker, is a simple, inspiring movie about Chinese-Americans seeking their roots. Leo Fang, the father, was born in China, left at 10, and is now a middle-class computer expert in Silicon Valley, with an American-born Chinese wife, and son Paul, a tall jock. They know little about China, although Leo and Mrs. Chao, his sister, have corresponded for 30 years.
The movie opens with cuts between the Fangs in California and the Chaos in Peking. Fang has a showdown with his boss, and Chao does morning tai chi in a tiny garden, climaxing in a happy burst of flatulence. We see the Great Wall, and, startlingly, expressway traffic racing past Peking's high-rises. Of course the capital of Earth's largest nation no longer has only pagodas and rickshas.
Once in China, the Fangs stay with the Chaos instead of in a hotel. Paul is astonished that his uncle opens his children's mail. "Haven't you heard of privacy?" he asks. The film wasn't shown widely in China because the Fangs don't follow official guidelines: No foreign family, not even Chinese from overseas, may live with a local family, but would be carefully kept within official tourist channels, as is implied in a cafe scene when the Fangs and Chaos draw disapproving stares from two official-looking men. "A Great Wall" observes different attitudes toward life. The Fangs are upward-bound; the Chaos' life moves slowly. Peter Fang is a college student; the Chaos' daughter impatiently awaits the results of her exams, hoping she's one of a lucky handful to receive higher education. Fang works in Silicon Valley, and reacts in horror when he's proudly shown a Chinese "computer lab" - one desktop. But he's even more amazed seeing his brother-in-law meditate in the garden with tai chi.((The scenes let the Americans and Chinese learn about each other, and has with no great revelations, conflicts, or surprises - just a month of an American family living at their roots, as Fang sees the life he would have had in China. "A Great Wall" is about a visit many people would take, to see the people, places, or ways of life where we or our ancestors came from. The original title said it all: "The Great Wall Is a Great Wall."
Director(s): Peter Wang
Writer(s): Shirley Sun and Peter Wang
Cast: Peter Wang, Sharon Iwai, Kelvin Han, Chao Li Qinqin, Hy Xiaoguang, Shen Guanglan
Release Date: 1986   
Keyword: Peking (Beijing), American Chinese yuppies, first American m
Target Age: 12+   Category: other
Documentary: no
Language: English with Mandarin subtitles   Reviewer's Name: Micah
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