4 out of 5 people found the following review useful:
An adoption documentary like no other
janos451 from San Francisco
26 May 2010
There is an abundance of great films about a child lost in an alien
culture, emblematic of the universal stranger-in-a-strange-land
syndrome, to the tune of "Sometimes I Feel Like a Motherless Child."
From "The Wizard of Oz" to "Live and Become," survival in a different,
potentially hostile, world has been a meaningful subject.
The latest addition to the genre, Stephanie Wang-Breal's brilliant "Wo
ai ni (I love you) Mommy" is a documentary about an American adoption
from China. It is more compelling and memorable than many a feature
The world premiere screening was at the San Francisco International
Asian American Film Festival, on Sunday, March 14, with the the
director in attendance. If the film's main subject came along, you
would have seen a "normal 11-year-old American" called Faith.
At the opening of the film, it's a very different situation: Faith is
an eight-year old orphan, with a clubfoot, in Guangzhou, her name is
Fang Sui Yong. Bewildered and petrified, she is facing a strange woman
who came all the way from Long Island to adopt her and take her "home."
The American, almost as stressed as the young girl, is Donna Sadowsky.
She is Jewish, mother of two boys, and she and her husband have already
adopted a Chinese girl when she was 14 months old.
After a long and arduous process, a long, emotion-filled journey, Donna
is now meeting Sui Yong, an adoptee much older than the average of
70,000 Chinese children - mostly babies or toddlers - adopted by
Americans. Donna disregards custom and statistics: this is to be her
For the girl, a veteran of orphanages and a Chinese foster family, this
first meeting with what she identifies as a "white person" is
traumatic, and in the audience feelings range from censure of what's
happening to fervent hope that the Chinese orphan and the American
do-gooder ride off into a blissful life. What follows is a fascinating
journey, unexpected turns and developments, all with documentary
veracity but with the sense of a great novel.
It's amazing that a young, first-time director would capture both the
reality and the truth of the encounter of people, the clash of
It's reminiscent of another young director's work, Sofia Coppola's
"Lost in Translation," except that much is found in "Wo ai ni Mommy,"
instead of being lost.
Wang-Breal's years'-long preparation, the mutual trust built with her
subjects, persistent integrity, and a clear sense of what is the
essence of the story serve her well, even when a lesser director would
shout "Cut!" In a memorable scene, Faith is on Skype with her former
foster parents in China, and by now she speaks only English, "forgets"
her Chinese, and says "we are Jewish." Against coughs, sound and
lighting problems, Wang-Breal keeps the camera rolling, and it's all to
Unlike flashy, popular feature films left behind along with the empty
popcorn container, "Wo ai ni Mommy" - its people, their interactions
and relationships, the culture clash and reaching across distances and
differences, and partial resolution of conflicts, if not a sugary happy
ending - will stay with you, and you'll be the richer for it.
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