Fascinating Look Into Foreign Asian-American Relationships
Having seen a number of documentaries concerning American men who seek to find women in other countries, I had expected a much different documentary than this one. This story concerns only one middle aged man who had been pursuing Asian women for around 5 years.
I first wondered why Steven didn't consider Asian-Americans, but as I watched, it became more than apparent why he stuck to looking outside of the U.S. As a man of meager means, American women - regardless of their heritage usually have standards that exceed those of what he had to offer, particularly given the fact that he was 60 years old. For instance, while Steven managed to keep an apartment in San Francisco, it was cramped, crowded and very cluttered. He also had a working class job that probably paid little more than minimum wage - as a toll booth cashier - with little to no hope for advancement.
Before the Internet, Steven began his search for the perfect Asian mate using snail mail services. Having met a few women, he was still on the hunt in the digital age. However, he had since decided to focus solely upon Chinese women. The reason for this did not seem to have been made clear.
He'd met a few promising subjects - however, "Sandy" had now become the focus of Steven's affections. He'd made a few trips to China to visit with her and they seemed to have hit it off (but we don't get so see those visits). Not only was there a pronounced language barrier (in fact, so much so that director Debbie Lum functioned as their interpreter), but they were also facing a 30 year age difference.
Since the filmmaker herself is Chinese - this added another interesting element to the documentary in a number of ways. In addition to being the couple's interpreter, director Lum found herself in the midst of relationship discord as she interpreted communication when the couple hit stumbling blocks. In fact, they had both come to rely upon her, calling at off times when the documentary was not being filmed. Lum was generally uncomfortable with this; however, she took it all in stride and gently told them that she would not be able to continue to function in that way once the documentary was finished.
For instance, Sandy finds some photos of Molly - Steven's last serious Chinese "girlfriend" and becomes enraged enough that she considers going back to China. And yet, she decides to tough it out -- vowing to leave him after she gets educated and has a job. Unbeknownst to Steven, she brings this up on several occasions - each time she becomes frustrated with him.
Despite the many troubling aspects of this relationship - there does appear to be a mutuality in terms of their feelings for one another. At the end of the film, it is revealed whether or not the couple actually makes it, which makes the story well worth watching.
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