A place where Wang-Breal’s style deviates from early Asian American filmmaking styles is that it does not play up notions of self-determination, self-articulation and collective spirit that were integral to earlier works. This is largely due to the fact that Wo Ai Ni Mommy is a documentary about family life and cohabitation devoid of political undertones. Nor does the film contain messages of political activism or a call for social change. If anything, the content and message is one of appreciation and celebration. Wang-Breal also goes beyond her role of being a ‘fly on the wall’ filmmaker and gets personally involved in the project. During the early days of faith’s American life, it was Wang-Breal who represented and offered the comfort of China to the bewildered girl. By talking to her in Chinese, she became the best friend in Faith’s new home. Hence, Wo Ai Ni Mommy’s theme is one of bringing communities together by highlighting their common humanity as opposed to highlighting their disparities. (Sterritt, 2009, p.61)
In conclusion, Stephanie Wang-Breal scores on several counts with her moving documentary film. Having been born and brought up in the United States herself, her approach and handling of the subject of child adoption is different from early Asian American filmmakers, who were perhaps first generation immigrants to the United States. In the end, what helps the film succeed is the filmmaker’s strong identification with the character of Faith Sadowsky, as the stories of both have some parallels. Alongside this autobiographical element, the film includes all the drama and tension expected of an event such as adoption. Since Faith was an older child, believed to be about 6 years old at the time of adoption, the challenge for the Sadowskys become more challenging. But in the end, the child adapts wonderfully to the new atmosphere and starts expressing her talents and personality in full colors. This transformation not only adds to the ‘feel-good’ factor of the film, but also underscores the viability of cross-continental adoptions.
Finally, in the work of recent writers and filmmakers such as Wang-Breal, we can arrive at some interesting inferences about their styles. It increasingly appears that they are
“following the course that earlier writers had set: each writer and filmmaker still seems concerned to recover lost history — communal, familial, and personal — in an attempt at self-understanding and self-definition. They are seeking to represent identities across the grain of common and still too prevalent, hidebound old stereotypes. They are claiming agency and voice for the silent or silenced and spoken-for. May we all (Asians and non-Asian Americans) rejoice, enjoy, and benefit (intellectually and emotionally) from their spreading their wings and taking flight.” (Ling, 1995, p.1)
Movie: Wo Ai Ni Mommy, 2010, Stephanie Wang-Breal, documentary, 90 min., streaming online through September 30 at http://www.pbs.org/pov/woainimommy/full.php
Ling, Amy. “Recent Asian American Fiction, Drama and Film.” Transformations 6.2 (1995): 1+.
Soe, Valerie. “Cinematic Snapshot.” Afterimage 35.1 (2007): 2+.
Soe, Valerie. “Deceptive Simplicity.” Afterimage 37.5 (2010): 37+.
Soe, Valerie. “Pictures in Transition: 15th San Francisco International Asian American Film Festival.” Afterimage 25.1 (1997): 3.
Sterritt, David. “Wrestling with Real Life.” Tikkun Mar.-Apr. 2009: 61+.
Houston, Velina Hasu, ed. The Politics of Life: Four Plays by Asian American Women. Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 1993.