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Reel Asian Film Festival Review: Seeking Asian Female

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[youtube id=”PiSSDFC3LgA” width=”620″ height=”360″]Though Reel Asian Film Festival ended on November 17, there are still plenty of movies to discuss. One of them is Debbie Lum’s quirky documentary Seeking Asian Female, which was screened at the Royal on November 11. The film’s main intention is to figure out whether two people from vastly different cultures can find a way to live with each other without prejudice. To my surprise, Seeking Asian Female turned out to be one of the most honest and self-reflexive documentaries to come out in a while — not only because it had the guts to examine a romantic relationship in such a detailed way, but also because it critiques the idea that documentary filmmakers can somehow remain impartial during the filming process.

Aside from its sincerity, what is interesting about Seeking Asian Female is that it often feels like a rom-com rather than a documentary — mainly due to its clear-cut narrative structure and its sweet message that love has no boundaries. In other words, it is a rom-com that unfolds in real life, which makes it infinitely more fascinating than any fiction.

In Seeking Asian Female, Debbie Lum starts out by documenting the life of a 60-year old slob named Steven who lives in California and dreams of marrying a submissive Asian woman. In Steven’s mind, that woman would do anything for him and ask nothing in return but love — much to Lum’s disapproval.

Of course, once Steven meets his bride-to-be after forming a relationship with her on a dating website, he realizes that Asian women are not as submissive as he thought. Sandy, who for some inexplicable reason decides to come to America all the way from China just to marry our friend Steven, realizes that he may in fact be too poor, too sloppy, and too different for her to tolerate. As such, most of the film is about Lum’s struggle to keep Steven and Sandy together and give them the happy ending they both deserve, which results in even more trouble.

What makes Seeking Asian Female truly tick is that there is a level of uncertainty to the whole thing. Let’s face it — rom-coms are predictable because we always know the guy will get the girl in the end, no matter what they go through (there are notable exceptions, I will admit). However, knowing that the film follows real people as opposed to fictional characters raises the stakes significantly higher. There is simply no way of knowing whether these two people would ever learn to love each other — or even if love is something that actually exists.

What is also impressive about Seeking Asian Female is just how critical Debbie Lum is of her own actions in the film. She constantly reminds the audiences that she might have been the one who pushed Steven into the whole situation in the first place. Lum’s self-condemnation is what gives the whole film the level of sincerity not seen in most documentaries.

So, if you ever get the opportunity to see Seeking Asian Female, do not hesitate — it is an engrossing, funny, and ultimately touching film that gets to the very core of human relationships. In fact, it should be released on Blu-ray or in theaters for Valentine’s Day because that would be the perfect time.

For more information on Reel Asian Film Festival, please follow this link to their official website.

Rating: B+

By: Taras Trofimov