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Dwayne and his older sister Mai are adults: Mai is married to Vinh, Dwayne is about to propose to Nina. Twenty-two years ago, when Mai was 10, she and Dwayne were refugees in Vietnam, adopted by Harold and Dee Williams, African-Americans from Los Angeles. Now, they remain close, especially Dwayne and his parents. Mai drops a bomb: she's located their birth mother, Thahn, and she's flying her to LA. Dee takes the news hard: she sees herself being replaced. Harold is more sanguine, and Dwayne pretends to be indifferent. When Thahn arrives, tensions reach the breaking point between Mai and Dee, between Nina and Dwayne, and even between Dee and Harold. Can we all get along? Written by
Bravo to Chi Muoi Lo. It's a heartwarming pot of diversity all spliced, diced and spiced up.
Paul Winfield and Mary Alice together -- what a pairing! That's worth the ticket already. Good for Chi Muoi Lo, thank goodness to his perseverance and passion, we get to see his fruit of labor and love: CATFISH IN BLACK BEAN SAUCE. The ingredients are strong emotional (and controversial) subjects. What an ensemble cast, including himself in the center of this multi-layered drama. It may feel like he packed it all in, yet we get to taste and soak it all.
Bold strokes for a first time filmmaker, Chi Muoi Lo, who produced (practically with the help of the whole Lo family as indicated in the credit roll), wrote the script, directed the film, and performed in it as the central character, the adopted Vietnamese son Dwayne. Wonderful strong cast with Mary Alice and Paul Winfield as Dolores and Harold, the kind-hearted adoptive couple who took in his sister along with Dwayne. Lauren Tom, as Dwayne's Vietnamese sister Mai, gave a steady restrained performance, especially a critical scene shared with Mary Alice -- the intensity, the dramatic charge built up between the two women -- sensitive anticipatory confrontation yet tear-jerking all together. Story is told in current times, fantasy-dream mode, and childhood flashbacks. At times scenes may seem like cliché, yet we laughed, we're anxious, we smiled with empathy, and we're hooked into the whirl of it all. There's also Sanaa Lathan (of "Love and Basketball" 2000) as Mia, the lovely yet hesitant girl friend whom Dwayne was courting -- yes, romance included.
It's a spicy dish -- a real mix of various types and levels of relationships: mother-son, mother-daughter, brother-sister, Asian-Black, husband-wife, roommates, in-laws, young loves -- diversity filled to the brim and steaming hot! Warmth and conflicts, misforgivings and forgivings, a lot of heart! See it to taste it.
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