With Dada Chen at NYAFF 2013

With Dada Chen at NYAFF 2013
With Dada Chen at NYAFF 2013

Sunday, March 20, 2011

ACF 941: "Motherland" from Doris Yeung

Written and directed by Doris Yeung
Starring Francoise Yip, Kenneth Tsang, and Byron Mann
USA, 2009, 93 minutes, HD (originated Super 16mm)
Opened March 18, 2010 at the Quad cinema in NYC

Motherland, which opened this weekend, marks the feature film debut of Doris Yeung, who was born in San Francisco in 1977 and raised in Hong Kong. It's the story of an immigrant family's American Dream gone horribly awry and was motivated by the violent death of the director's own mother.

Raffi Tang (Francoise Yip) has been living in Mexico for some time when she learns that her mother was murdered, ostensibly during a burglary at her home in San Fransisco. Estranged from her mother because she had a lesbian relationship, which has since ended, Raffi returns for her mother's funeral.

Initially she stays with her father, played by veteran Hong Kong actor Kenneth Tsang. He had divorced her mother, remarried, and had another daughter, Raffi's half-sister, who is now a pre-teener. He was also embroiled in a vicious legal battle with Raffi's mother about the fortune that was amassed during their marriage.

Discovering facts missed by the police, led by a detective on his first murder case, and assisted by Michael (Byron Mann), an undocumented alien who works for her father, Raffi comes to suspect that her mother's death was not simply the result of a panicked burglar, but perhaps a planned hit. She thus is faced with the double dilemma of not only facing the possibility that her mother's death was intentional, but also of deciding whether or not to pursue her mother's financial claims against her father.

Motherland is a promising start for this young Asian-American female director. There are some flaws and weaknesses in the plot, pacing, and dialogue, but it's an admirable first venture. I'd rate it at 2.5 out of 4 stars, a fairly good film.

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