The film description is a bit misleading, or perhaps, we are so in-tuned with social media that when the film descriptive italicizes the words “Social Network” we automatically think of Twitter, Facebook and such. But this is not really about the new technology and advances. Was I the only one? No, apparently not as I overheard a few people mention this as we exited the screening.
But it didn’t matter! Director Peter Ho-Sun Chan offers us a story of three college students and their pursuit of the “American Dream”. Inspired by a true story, each character is so different in personality and in life values but are brought together in this film that is about life-long friendships and “networking” in the traditional sense.
Woven in the story of determination and hard work we find a get a peek in the traditions and hard working ethics that even western-born Chinese, and probably other asians, are familiar with. What was entertaining was the stereotypes played out in the film of how Americans view Chinese and vice-versa. Meng Xiaojun (Deng Chao) was the only one of the three friends who was granted his visa to “live the American dream”. He is also, out of the three, who was most likely to succeed. Being granted the visa meant “America needs you now.” If not, then “America doesn’t need you just yet.” However, the dreams soon turn into reality with Meng who faces disappointment resulting in being a bus boy at a diner. Not giving up hope and determination he returns to his friends in China to find his friends Wang Yang (Tong Dawei) and Cheng Dongqing (Huang Xiaoming) have started a private underground school to teach Chinese students English and the nuances of the American ways. The three join forces in creating a highly successful, yet unauthorized, New Dreams School. Eventually they are faced with a lawsuit in America with copyright infringements and accusations of cheating the system.
The film also includes a romantic storyline with the acting debut of Du Juan who plays the love interest to the awkwardly shy and geeky Cheng. By the way, if she sounds familiar, you may recognize her from the designer runways shows and pages of fashion magazines. Du Juan is considered China’s first supermodel.
American Dreams in China (Mandarin with English subtitles) has one more screening at the Toronto International Film Festival this Saturday, September 14th at the TIFF Bell Lightbox 1 at 9:15 am. Visit the official website for more details at tiff.net
Definitely worth seeing!
Here’s the trailer…