This Thursday the Chinese Program at UNCG hosted a Chinese film night in the Bryan Building. The film, “American Dreams in China,” was about three young friends and their journey through adolescence into adulthood. The historical context of the film is amidst a changing China and waves of immigration to the United States from China.
The three main characters, Wang, Cheng and Meng, struggle through romantic heartbreak, academic disappointments and the hardships related to obtaining a visa. The story touches on the lack of equality Chinese people face when immigrating to America. Themes of the movie include friendship, dignity and respect.
One of the main characters, Cheng, is from a village and must work
hard for his place at the university where he meets his two best friends, Wang
and Meng. Cheng must grapple with failing a handful of exams, while his friend,
Meng, passes with flying colors.
Cheng feels as if he is always competing with Meng, and this strains their friendship throughout the film.
A definitive moment in the friendship of the three occurs when Cheng stands up with Wang and Meng in defiance of their teacher. Meng and Wang do not agree with what is being taught in one of their courses, and as they proceed to walk out of the classroom, another peer tries to stop them saying, “you must not disrespect our teacher.” Wang and Meng continue with their act of defiance and are met with the rest of the class trying to assault them.
Cheng arises and holds the doors of the classroom shut while Meng and Wang make a run for it. This act of loyalty cements their friendship and from this point in the film, the three are virtually inseparable.
In their romantic lives, the three have varying degrees of luck. Cheng
pursues the most beautiful girl at the university, Sui Mei; however, she rejects
him on multiple occasions. Sue Mei finally gives into Cheng’s romantic pursuits
when he visits her in the infirmary while she is recovering from pneumonia that
she contracted on a date with Cheng.
Later in the movie, Cheng is explaining his poor luck to a class he is teaching. He tells his students, “She eventually left for America. And she took my virginity with her.”
Wang courts an American girl named Lucy. Portrayed as a hippie, Lucy and Wang have a lot of chemistry but this too passes when Lucy returns to America. Meng appears to be the most successful with women, as he and his girlfriend go to America with the hope of having a better life.
Despite some unfortunate luck, Cheng and Wang maintain with high
hopes and eventually start a school that focuses on English for young Chinese
students to have the skills necessary to pass exams and obtain Visas for the
Meanwhile, in America, Meng is fired from his job working in a lab. He resorts to being a busboy in a diner, which takes a toll on his pride. He later finds out that his girlfriend has a job doing alterations in addition to teaching piano lessons which causes him to feel inadequate because he is unable to provide.
The two eventually come back to China, breaking Meng’s expectations of living and maintaining a life in the United States. Meng reconnects with Cheng and Wang and they bring him into their schooling venture. The business becomes the root of their friendship struggles as they have different thoughts on whether or not to take their growing company public. Cheng faces intense opposition from protesters at one point in the film. The protesters are more conservative and they do not support “New Dream,” the school Cheng started.
As the film comes to a close, the three friends struggle with
whether or not to take the company public. Cheng and Meng are
significantly divided on this matter and it threatens their friendship.
The three end up in the United States trying to figure out their company’s
status. They experience many challenges from corporate America and struggle
with threats, feeling as if, “the playing field has never been even.”
Senior Jasmine Orr, a Speech Pathology and Spanish major, attended
the film festival and said that she especially enjoyed it because, “this was my
first movie in Chinese and it was really cool to be able to point out words
that I knew.”
A quote from the movie was, “did we change the world, or did the world change us?”
Orr said, “this quote is applicable to life today, especially as college students trying to find ourselves.”