We thought you might want to know that two of this year's acclaimed film festival features are available to view online, for free, for a limited time. See below for reviews from our writers earlier this year. And click on their titles to see the films.
9500 Liberty will be available until election day, Nov 2.
Wo Ai Ni Mommy you can watch through the end of the month, Nov 30.
* * *
Stephanie Wang-Breal’s Wo Ai Ni Mommy, focuses on an adopted Chinese girl’s first year and a half with her new family, the Sadowskys, in their Long Island home. According to the film, since 1992 when China opened up adoptions, Americans have adopted 70,000 Chinese babies or children.
The first moment viewers see Sui Yong onscreen, when she is eight years old and being picked up by her new mom, is heartbreaking -- the shock, sadness and shyness we see in her face and expressions. Like other adoptees’ stories, this one is more complex than simply a wealthy family in the US saving a third world baby. Sui Yong has foster parents in Guangzhou, China, whom she doesn’t want to leave, and another foster sister whom she is close to. The transition is more shocking for her perhaps because, like Borshay Liem, she wasn't a baby, but was eight years old when she was adopted.
Through the film, we see ways in which her life has dramatically changed, from her struggle to adjust to a new life, to learning English and dealing with her disability. While the parents are loving, there are some moments that make me cringe, like the total immersion experience where the new parents force her to learn English on flash cards. Interestingly, the filmmaker also serves as a translator between the parents and child.
Wo Ai Ni Mommy is a straightforward, traditional documentary the strength of which lies in capturing verite moments, with little reliance on bells and whistles like poetic gestures or fancy graphics. (It has a slightly MTV Real World feel to it.) The film is also a PBS POV documentary. In short, Sui Yong’s transformation in such a short period is utterly shocking, and you won't be able to peel your eyes from the screen. —Momo Chang
* * *
9500 Liberty arrives at the Asian American International Film Festival having already amassed many rave reviews, and its spotlight on the illegal immigration debate is especially timely given recent legislation in Arizona. The documentary, named after a Virginia home street address hosting a protest wall, follows a county in Virginia that in 2008 enacted a law requiring police officers to question anyone with "probable cause" to be an undocumented immigrant (sound familiar?).
The film follows all the major players from the beginning, from fierce debate before legislation was passed, to the damaging after-effects of the law towards all minorities and the local community, to how various members of the community were able to fight back against the will of politically ambitious politicians and xenophobic extremists. The documentary is a ground-level view of real activism in action, on the streets, in government chambers, and on the internet. The role of the internet was especially interesting, with the film demonstrating the immense power certain bloggers had on both sides of the debate in influencing citizens and politicians. While the entire situation unfolded, Annabel Park and Eric Byler were innovative in broadcasting clips and events in a real-time, interactive documentary format, on YouTube.
Some noteworthy aspects of the film include the opening scene, in which viewers are immediately exposed to bare, unscripted racism and ignorant bigotry by a local resident. There are clear parallels between this Virginia county legislation and the current Arizona anti-immigration law. Many similar defenses of the Arizona law were voiced in the documentary, like the issue of "probable cause", which the film shows can easily lead to bogus reasons to stop any people of color. One fact I took issue with was the oft-mentioned lie about increased immigration associated with increased violent crime, when the statistics in that Virginia county (or Arizona for that matter) actually show the opposite.
I had been familiar with Eric Byler's prior fictional films (Charlotte Sometimes, Americanese), but more recently he and Annabel Park have been involved with significant political activism. Aside from this documentary, they've been active with congressional resolutions concerning comfort women, and in creating pivotal media that helped swing the Virginia Senate race for Jim Webb. Some of you may also know of Park as founder of the Coffee Party movement, a counter to the Tea Party movement.
With 9500 Liberty, Byler and Park have produced a historically enduring and relevant documentary. This immigration issue has large ramifications for what it even means to be American. 9500 Liberty is worth checking out, and the documentary helps explain why President Obama specifically chose Prince William County in Virginia to give his final speech on the night before the 2008 presidential election. Park will be there for Q&A after the documentary's screening. —Alvin Lin