Seeking Asian Female (2012) Poster

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10/10
Enjoyable real-life story of opposites attracting
beirne-279-39958711 September 2012
Seeing Asian Female is a documentary about Steven Bolstad, a man who really, really wants an Asian wife, and Sandy, the woman he finds from China. The documentary was done by Debbie Lum, who wanted to do a movie about yellow fever, where white guys want an Asian woman over all others. She has been the recipient of these kind of overtures, and did not appreciate them, but she decided that she wants to see what is behind the phenomenon. She picked Steven as a subject because he was so open about everything. He is an amazingly good sport, as he doesn't always come out looking good here.

After a lot of searching on the Internet he meets Sandy and brings her to the US. The movie then gets into their relationship. This is a case of opposites attracting, but not everything is smooth. There are cultural and other differences making things difficult and it is unclear how things will work out.

The movie excels on several levels. The basic story is a romance, only with real people. The differences in culture and language come up throughout the movie, but not in a heavy-handed way. The subjects are interesting and you care bout them.

The movie also has some sub-mysteries. Why was Sandy, who is attractive, intelligent, and reasonably successful, still single at 30 in a culture where that is unexpected? How was Steven, who is a cashier at an airport parking lot, able to afford two Macs and how does he end up with such rich friends?

The third main character in the film is Debbie Lum herself. She was born in America and learned Mandarin as an adult, but knows enough to do basic translation. Since Sandy was still learning English they kept asking Debbie to translate for them, which put her in the defacto position of marriage counselor, so the movie is her story too.

Seeking Asian Female is a great date movie. You'll laugh during the movie and have things to talk about afterward.
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9/10
A Surprisingly Personal Film
JustCuriosity29 March 2012
Seeking Asian Female was well-received at its world premiere at Austin's SXSW Film Festival. The film surprised me, because it sounded initially like a gimmicky film about the tawdry phenomenon of lonely American men with "yellow fever" seeking out compliant Asian girls. It seemed to start out that way for the filmmaker, but eventually once a real couple, Steven and Sandy, emerge the film really becomes a case study of how difficult any relationship can be. This one is further complicated by differences of age, culture, and language which, of course, undermine their ability to communicate. The film maker is also placed in the odd position where she goes from being a neutral observer to participant (as translator and confidant) of the struggling couple. To her credit she addresses this conflict of interest head-on and acknowledges the complexities that it creates. In the process director Debbie Lum produces a compelling film that asks profound questions about love and relationships that seem to go well beyond her original premise. The film is absorbing and entertaining. The quirkiness of Steven's character certainly adds to the film. It was, however, a little surprising that the film never addresses the questions of sex or whether they planned to have children. These elephants in the room would seem to add some additional layers to the film. Nevertheless, the film brings light to many interesting issues including marriage-related cross-cultural immigration. As the director noted in the Question & Answer session, there are very few films that address Asian-American issues and this is one that takes a positive step in that direction.
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7/10
Intriguing look at fascinating subject
evening124 August 2014
Warning: Spoilers
Director Debbie Lum takes an incisive look at the phenomenon of American guys going overseas for wives.

She finds an unforgettable protagonist in Steven, a 60-year-old parking-lot cashier who is twice-divorced but hopes he'll find happiness with 30-year-old Sandy, who grew up on a tea farm in rural China and speaks very little English.

Steven, Sandy, and Lum show great courage throughout this endeavor. Steven is quite open about his past efforts to land an Asian spouse as well as his financial challenges. Sandy isn't afraid to show her frustration with this near-stranger and openly contemplates going to nursing school and leaving Steven once she's on her feet. And Lum, the daughter of Chinese-Americans, wonders aloud whether her translation services, which Steven seems to appreciate as marriage counseling, have crossed any documentarian boundaries.

I was fortunate to catch an airing of this film at the recent annual convention of the American Psychological Association in Washington, D.C.

It is riveting.
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10/10
What a documentary should be
richardc02025 July 2015
This documentary is a full on steady thrilling ride of probing questions, a mountain of huge ones which hang over each scene thus immense levels of drama.

Without any spoilers, I say the film's premise is not observing a white guy with a mail order Chinese bride which is so generic, overplayed, stereotypical & label-centric of a description that it's so rude to the film. Rather, the documentary is about the many questions which all think & few dare voice: why? what is ambition? do they know what they're getting into? are they going to make it? will they be happy? what is happy? is marriage a solution or the problem? how will the money work out? is love important? how do they love? what is love? These sorts of vast questions are what make the film so intoxicatingly awesome, so thrillingly tempting, so eagerly watched by so many.

Yet another fascinating angle is the documentarian's own presence. The typical Heisenberg Principle arises in many documentaries: how to observe without being a part of the film. Invariably, this film has Lum doing translation work which raises a hornet's nest full of questions about how she alters the otherwise natural flow. Truly, a wonderful set of questions atop the existing ocean of questions.

To this day, I still am dying for an update or a sequel. Lum's writing, editing & narration are too good, the issue too vast, the characters too interesting. Indeed, everything I'd hoped for in a documentary.
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