Seeking Asian Female
“The first time I visited Steven in his own home, I had to fight the urge to turn around and leave.” So confessed director and producer Debbie Lum of the subject of her documentary about men with an obsession for dating Asian women.
I had the same sentiment upon watching the opening scene of “Seeking Asian Female,” as stereotype upon stereotype about Asian women spewed forth from the mouths of not only Steven but other disagreeable-looking white men. Lum had craftily planted this sour taste in the viewer’s mouth, though, so that by the end I was transformed, and the story became more about the beauty of relationship-making than the ugliness and distaste of yellow fever.
Yet I couldn’t help wondering what the main point of the movie is, as it teases us with a title that indicates it being about one topic and ends up being about so many others. Is it about fetishes, or love, forgiveness and acceptance? Is it about the challenges of marriage, or the realities of why we seek to marry at all? Is it about confronting stereotypes, or banishing them? Perhaps all of the above.
My own aversion to the movie’s themes, for example, was challenged. I realized I did not want to “go there” because the topics – love, marriage, fetishes, stereotypes, immigrant experiences – triggered personal pains for me. As a result, living through the movie turned out surprisingly therapeutic. I experienced the raw emotions of Steven and Sandy – the Chinese woman whom Steven found online – and, as far away as their world seemed to be and as I wanted to be from it at times, I appreciated that their moments of confusion, heartache and triumphs were real. It would have been very different if this had not been a documentary. Lum opened her mind to the story as it unfolded, and I’m glad she artfully convinced me to do the same.
Screened at CAAMFEST on March 15, 2013 (7:00pm, Pacific Film Archive Theater), March 20, 2103 (6:30pm, Sundance Kabuki Cinemas) and March 23, 2013 (5:00pm, Rush).