Syncopated Films | USA | 86 min.
It’s interesting when you’re a child how everything seems to be opposite of reality. Events that will pass by your life without making even the slightest ripple seem like they are life changing events of extreme importance, and at the same time, events that you will look back on as an adult and wonder how you ever made it through will pass by your child mind with complete indifference. Tze Chun’s Children of Invention follows a young brother and sister through part fantastical children’s adventure and part heartbreaking account of the plight of many Asian American immigrants struggling to find a place in the unforgiving American economy. Children Of Invention is a heart felt drama about family sticking together and making it through hard-times regardless of obstacles that sits right on the edge of losing its innocence and falling into a horrible tragedy. The very low budget state of the film is easily mistaken for stark realism and a stirring and believable truth in all of the characters. It successfully sits right in the middle of the road on emotional impact, and leaves the audience unable to decide if it’s one of the saddest stories they’ve ever heard or one of the sweetest.
Elaine Cheng (Cindy Cheung) is an immigrant from Hong Kong who came to Boston with her husband some years ago. Elaine had two children, Raymond () and Tina (), with this man before he returned to Hong Kong leaving her alone in America struggling to support her children as a single mom. Not being an American citizen really limits job opportunities for Elaine and she falls victim to illegal get-rich-quick pyramid schemes. Naive and uneducated to the true nature of these programs, she soon finds herself unable to locate her employers and becomes detained by the Boston police for being associated with an illegal organization. Scared of what may become of her children, Elaine doesn’t tell the police she has two children at home alone while she is detained for a few days with no way to get in contact with them.
Raymond, the oldest of the two siblings, has been slowly coming to the realization that he is going to have to become the man of the house. With his father in Hong Kong and his mother out trying to find work most of the time, he will have to care for his younger sister and himself without much help from his mother. When his mother doesn’t come home one night Raymond decides he is going to have to take much more drastic measures to provide for Tina — a journey alone through busy streets, public transportation and dark Boston alleys to find a bank where there is money left to them by his grandmother.
Raymond’s intelligent ideas to help and resilience to the situation he is thrown into is endearing and uplifting, but at the same time it’s obvious that while he is very intelligent, an intelligent child is in fact, still a child. He has no idea what he is doing and cannot grasp the gravity and danger of the situation. He is unable to realize, much like his mother, that good intentions are rarely enough for success.
Scenes in the film are very uncomfortable and really push the audience to the edges of their seats in anticipation of something horrible happening. Furthermore, the way the film is shot lends a great degree of realism and really makes the audience feel as though they are watching the events unfold in front of them in person. This realism will make you want to jump on screen and tell Raymond that this is not a good idea and to head back home immediately before they get hurt. It’s a very frustrating tension that is built up this way by director Chun and it really draws the audience into the story. The acting throughout the film was impressive as well while retaining that indie realism that makes the film what it is. The two children are first time actors but shine with their purity and natural acting abilities that are free of Hollywood influence.
Children Of Invention premiered as an official selection at the 2009 Sundance Film Festival and recently was screened at the Hawaii International Film Festival where it won the Puma Emerging Filmmaker Award. The film will be making appearances in Asian, Independent and International film festivals across the United States for the next few months but viewers are able to purchase the film on DVD now directly from the filmmakers. This self-distribution and early release model may seem a little unorthodox and unusual but it will greatly increase the exposure and audience of the film while it’s still in the market for a theatrical distributor.
Unless you live in one of the the cities that has a film festival that will be hosting Children Of Invention, it is unlikely that you will see this film in your local theaters. It may still be picked up by a distributor, but even then will surely only be on a limited release. Instead of waiting for an unlikely theatrical release in your area, purchase this film from the film makers on their official website. Independent films like Children Of Invention are at the heart of where art in film still exists. To keep the artist filmmaker’s future viable and ensure that we will continue to see art in film and not lose ourselves in commercialism and Hollywood extravagance, we have to support these low budget independent films.
Support Asian American and independent film by seeking out and telling your friends about Tze Chun’s Children of Invention.
9 out of 10