If you haven't seen it yet, go watch "The Half of It" on Netflix. It's not only an amazing cinematic rollercoaster, but the first film directed by an Asian-American woman to win the Founder's Award for Best Narrative Feature. This incredible director is Alice Wu. Her debut movie was Saving Face, another movie with a focus on Asian-American culture. I haven't had the chance to watch that film yet, but I am planning on it!
I'm here to talk about her latest film, "The Half of It". It's a transcendental film following the life of Ellie Chu, a teenage Chinese-American living in small-town America. Not only does it address important issues of Asian-immigrants and racism, it also addresses the LGBTQ community and follows Ellie as she grows into herself. It's difficult to fit so many deep and important messages into a runtime of 1 hour and 44 minutes, but Wu manages to do so impeccably.
This isn't a movie review though, this is a post focusing on the importance of films like "The Half of It" in today's culture. Discrimination goes far beyond high school bullying, which happens to Ellie in the film, as classmates make fun of her last name. Then we are introduced to her family situation as the film progresses. Her father, an immigrant with multiple degrees from China is unable to find a job in America because of a language barrier. And because of that, his degrees are deemed practically useless, and he is only able to find a job at a rundown train station. In the beginning of the film, Ellie asks her father if he has called the electric company, and he replies dejectedly that they do not understand him.
This is a problem that many Asian-American immigrants face. The language barrier, which is propelled by racism and inherent discrimination against Asians. In our world, when all you see is color, a person's status, education, and background are deemed unimportant in comparison. Like in the film, people are impatient. I have personally experienced my mother being discriminated and insulted because she has broken english--which she has learned extremely well considering she only moved to America when she had me.
This is something that has to change. Because of this inherent discrimination inside of people, many educated, intelligent immigrants are even not given job opportunities in America, and that is the cause of high rates of Asian-American poverty in cities like San Fransisco and New York City, where you see elderly Asian-American immigrants struggling to earn their next meal by picking up street litter.
There are organizations that aim to provide language resources and other services to help Asian-American immigrants gain access to education, job opportunities, and home services. Recently, I spoke to the research director of the Asian American Federation, a non-profit based in New York City fighting for Asian-American immigrants to have more opportunities.
Read about our interview here.
As a child of immigrants who struggled through these same obstacles, I am truly grateful to my parents for giving me the opportunities that I now have.
So since Mother's Day is coming up, and I encourage you--if you are a child of an immigrant--to thank your mother (and your father!) for the sacrifices they've made for you. Let them know that you don't take anything for granted, because they have given you everything.
Author: Carina Sun