Landing at LAAPFF 2020 is Parachute!

6 Oct

By Ed Sum
(The Vintage Tempest)

Available to viewers in Southern California from Oct 1, 2020 at 12pm PT to Oct 31, 2020 at 11:59pm PT. Click here to watch the film on Eventive.

It’s uncertain how long rich Asian families (usually Chinese) have plopped their children in a foreign land and assume they will remain fine. The plan to get them to assimilate to local culture, and welcome them home later, can backfire, as Katherine Tolentino’s short film sadly shows. The term was once called satellite kids, but these days, the media identifies these youths as Parachute–also the title of this short film.

This filmmaker’s drama reveals how this idea to bridge cultures together can and cannot work. Part of the problem lays with how Asian parents exercise tiger parenting—a term coined by Chinese-American author Amy Chua in “The Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother.” Their desire also includes thinking removing them from a harsh education system of the East will do some good for the child.

Nicky Zou is excellent at playing a not so idealistic Wendy Zhang, a young woman who’s turned punk because she’s had a rough go at the transition. She’s not the only one in her class. Although we don’t get the other students’ stories (they too are transplants), she’s the one who has a lot of air to grieve. Her host family and school doesn’t try to help. Usually, in real life situations, the desire by the parents to extricate youth from one extreme educational system in hopes to amalgamate them to another is thought of as a good thing. But without guidance counsellors, life can be tough.

When a fresh faced and perhaps naive Mei-Ling (Zoe Lau) arrives, Wendy is reminded of what she once was. There’s uncertainty in who is right, but the hate is obvious. One girl feels abandoned and the other is not. Viewers are given a good outline on the problem of whether or not these teens can realistically take on the world or not, but their backstory can benefit from expansion.

Boy or girl, it doesn’t matter and Disney/ABC’s happy-go lucky … Meets World series is much different. This sitcom is just that, with the advantage of family being there to help these young protagonists. In Tolentino’s work, these teens don’t have anyone unless, as Mei shows, they make an effort to connect.

This bittersweet short is terrific at revealing a problem that’s in hiding. I hope Tolentino has plans to expand this work. The social problem she chose to examine is worth delving into greater detail. I see these kids orbiting Vancouver, British Columbia and the problem has been studied. To see this occurring in California suggests it’s time to not judge, but rather try to help. These parachute kids can cry out for help, but as for whether anyone can hear, it’s up to the host society to have programs to help.

4 Stars out of 5

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