Tuesday, February 13, 2007


Dark Matter (流星)

I took the morning off to attend the press conference announcing the lineup of the 25th San Francisco International Asian American Film Festival (SFIAAFF). From 19 countries, there will have 125 films and videos, 41 feature narratives, 14 feature documentaries, 68 shorts, 15 world premieres, and one fantabulous film festival.

I am even more excited this year besides the film lineup because I am actively involved with this year's festival as a member of the feature screening committee. I am so happy that I am able to contribute to the festival personally. It's extremely gratifying. I am really grateful for Center for Asian American Media giving me the opportunity to serve. Alright, Oscar is still a week away, so I will stop here.

Dark Matter, photo by Matthew Margolin After the press conference, we screened the closing night film "Dark Matter" ("流星"), staring Liu Ye (刘烨) and Meryl Streep.

Based on a true event, it tells a compelling story about a bright young graduate student Liu Xing, played by Liu Ye. Liu Xing comes to the US from China to study physics in a university. He believes that America is the land where his talent can be recognized, his dream can be realized, and his scientific ideas can be explored. However, not only he has to struggle to adapt to the reality due to culture clashes, he also has to make sense of the academic world when he conducts his research on "dark matter."

Perhaps due to the director Chen Shi-zheng (陈士爭) is an opera director, the music selections in this film really stand out to me. They are deeply moving and very effective on building up the emotion and add more layers to the story. They also bring nostalgia of the 90s for newly arrived Chinese students in the US.

Besides Meryl Streep always being terrific, the performance from those supporting actors who play Chinese students are very impressive. They vividly portrait those young student's experience living in a culture shock environment.

However, it seems to me that the writer of the film is not very familiar with the scientific subject, in this case, the physics. The dialogue on those subject is very odd. And it will never happen in any department in a university to have a professor arguing with a secretary about a student's academic study.

Also, I don't get the metaphor of the four out of the five elements (wood 木, fire 火, earth 土, metal 金, and water 水) used in the film, with fire (火) is missing. I will have to save that for the Q&A during the festival.

My rating: 8 out of 10.

This film is also very interesting to me on another personal level. I was actually just 1 hour and half away (driving) when the actual event happened in 1991 (do NOT click on that link BEFORE seeing the movie, because it will contain spoiler). Years later, that event has not been forgotten.


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