22 April 2007

Eve and the Fire Horse

On Thursday night, I went to the fair city of Rotterdam for dinner and a movie with two friends. Not just any dinner since we dined at Asian Glories. They amazingly managed to serve 7 delicious dishes in 45 minutes. We were shocked. It also almost make us forget the ridiculous water ordering dialog:

Us: We'd like some tap water, please.
Them: So Spa Red or Spa Blue? (referring to bottled water, sparkling or still)
Us: Just tap water, please.
Them: Spa Red, Spa Blue, it's water!

We got our water in the end and they seemed less upset after we ordered a bottle of wine to go with it.

The film was a part of Asiascope. This is an interesting little film festival because it focuses on films about Asians living outside of Asia. That means films that wrestle with issues that all immigrants wrestle with as well as some of those specific to (half-) Asians. It's a nice concept and I hope have more time for it next year.

We saw Eve and the Fire Horse. Written by Julia Kwan, this film tells the story of two Chinese sisters growing up in Canada and their encounter with Catholicism. The film was beautifully made with a sweet story and a few moments that brought an 8-year-old's imagination to life on the screen. Imagine a Chinese opera singing goldfish or Buddha dancing with Jesus in your living room. However it also managed to touch on the confusion that children face when they are encountering a spiritual world that their parents don't understand.

Eve and her older sister Karena introduce their mother, played by Vivian Wu, to Christianity by way of the movie The Ten Commandments. Karena explains to their mother that it's the holiday to celebrate the resurrection of Jesus. When mom looks confused, Eve explains that it's the "holiday with the chocolate bunnies." After watching the movie, mom is convinced that Christianity could be a welcome addition to Buddhism. After all, two ideas about how to live well in the world must be better than one. Besides, she liked Moses, he had a kind face.

If you decide to watch this film, it is interesting to notice the way that the girls approach their new found Christianity. In Sunday school, they sing "Jesus Loves Me" and listen to passages out of the Bible read by the nun. Christianity is represented as a faith religion, something you believe in. Buddhism, on the other hand, is a series of rituals that the girls and their family members participate in. Their grandmother pours three glasses of tea each morning for gods "who never seemed to be thirsty." They light incense and bow three times when their parents or grandmother tells them to.

It is not surprising, then, that their approach to Christianity, especially Karena's, is to observe and mimic its rituals. Karena gives her sister careful instructions on the position for prayer but doesn't make any mention of what a prayer is or how one prays. She is exasperated when the younger Eve confuses the Christian prayer position with the Buddhist prayer position. From their experiences with Buddhism, proper religious observance is related to proper observation of rituals, not with specific beliefs.

Eve and the Fire Horse is a lovely film that tells a convincing tale of lost and found family and faith. You won't see it in the theaters, but it deserves a high position on your NetFlix request list!

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