A Mother Facing Two Mountains — Immigration and the Education System — in New Independent Film | The Best Samaritan with Jamie Aten and Kent Annan
Confetti’s opening scene brilliantly sets a tone of frustration for the rest of the film.
A well-dressed woman says, “Let’s talk persistent” and angrily presses play on a tape recorder, on which a different female voice can be heard speaking in Mandarin. Visibly annoyed, the woman laughs: “Is everything in Chinese?”
Unknowingly, viewers made judgments within seconds of the first woman entering the office, as well as the second Mandarin speaking woman on the tape recorder. We make these judgments based on little to no information about the two women other than a few sound clips, which Hu disputes as the film progresses. All of this sets up the clearly presented themes that can be seen in the rest of the film: normal versus abnormal, the individual versus the group, judgments and persistence.
The Mandarin speaking woman on the recording is Lan Chen (played by Zhu Zhu), a Chinese mother who desperately wants her daughter to have the opportunity to have a better life through education. Zhu, recognizable in Cloud Atlas and Marco Polo, beautifully plays the role of a severely stoic woman who has buried and brushed aside the hardships she had to remove in order to survive. On the recording we learn that Lan’s daughter Mei Mei (played by a delicious Harmony He) has some type of disability and the woman listening to the recording is Dr Wurmer (Helen Slater), the director of ‘an American school that can potentially help him.
The following scenes travel back in time and depict Lan’s life in China before coming to the United States to find a school for Mei Mei. Lan and her husband face a problem that is familiar to so many parents: finding a school where Mei Mei can flourish. It is clear that Mei Mei is very bright, but Lan knows from her own experience that without proper teaching her academic and creative abilities will be stifled for the rest of her life. Lan decides against this future for her daughter and makes the difficult decision to leave China and her husband so that Mei Mei can study in America.
This theme of the individual versus the group resurfaces when Lan is summoned to a meeting with a Chinese director. He says that although Mei Mei is adorable, she is way behind in her studies compared to other students. Mei Mei is again judged on the basis that she does not meet the normal and acceptable standards of the group. There is no tolerance for deviance outside of the majority, and therefore there is no place for Mei Mei in school. We find out the same thing happened with Lan at her school when she was younger thanks to a flashback. In Lan and Mei Mei’s life, they were rejected and told to go somewhere else because they were different.
The rest of the film shows us the new life Lan and Mei Mei are making in America. They will live with Helen, an elderly disabled woman who lives alone and uses a wheelchair. Amy Irving deftly plays Helen, with a stiffness but a warmth that goes very well onscreen. Despite Helen’s initial reluctance to welcome Lan and Mei Mei, she is won over by them. She is inspired by Mei Mei’s special vision of the world and her obvious luminous charm.
Through Lan’s work experiences, viewers see a common struggle of immigrants to the United States. These scenes are all too familiar to many immigrant children who have seen their parents work and work, often paid illegally. The struggle of immigrants is beautifully portrayed here, nuanced but effective. As a mother and daughter of immigrants, I resonated with Lan’s tenderness.
This heartwarming film shows a mother’s unwavering love for her child and her tenacity in giving her daughter all that she herself did not have. Parents who have disabled children can also be encouraged and understand Lan’s perseverance in advocating to provide her child with the proper care and education in order to thrive.
There is also a valuable lesson we can learn from Mei Mei: Sometimes parents or guardians try to mold them into a mold, but whatever path a child chooses for themselves is the best. Although Lan wanted to spare her daughter the personal trauma of the rejection she suffered, she didn’t realize that Mei Mei was not affected in the same way she was. Perhaps the biggest lesson we could learn from Mei Mei in Confetti is that being rejected because you fall outside of what is considered normal is not necessarily a bad thing.
Like Mei Mei, maybe we should embrace being different and celebrate it. It might be the best thing to happen to you in a world that no longer takes the time to see the true beauty in front of us in simple, everyday things like paper confetti dancing in the wind.
To view Confetti now, groups can ask organize a screening.
Lora kwan is committed to walking with marginalized and vulnerable people towards wholeness. Through her pastoral care counseling ministry, she has the privilege of witnessing the restorative power of the Holy Spirit and the unfathomable love God has for His children. She seeks to embody Christ for everyone she meets, and cares deeply for those affected by the great injustices present in this fallen world. She hopes to be a peacemaker and bridge for racial reconciliation, as well as a champion of cultural ties. Lora is currently pursuing a master’s degree at Wheaton Institute for Humanitarian Disasters.