Uprooted from the US after her mother is stricken with cancer, thirteen-year-old Fen struggles to adjust to life in Taipei amidst the SARS epidemic.
The title AMERICAN GIRL challenges the audience’s stereotype of what an American looks like, emphasizing the American spectrum rather than the Asian spectrum of the “Asian-American” identity. As the protagonist fights to return to the US in the story, her superficial search for freedom elsewhere is actually a deep ache for belonging somewhere, somehow.
Set in 2003 during the global SARS epidemic in Taiwan, AMERICAN GIRL is an autobiographical family drama that follows a 13-year-old girl who is uprooted from LA unexpectedly when her mother is diagnosed with breast cancer. The film spotlights a family torn apart by culture clash, troubled by the economic crisis, plagued by cancer, yet still struggling to reconnect after years of separation.
In 1997, at age seven, my mother brought me and my younger sister to the US, leaving my father behind to work in Asia. After five years of immigration, I considered myself American and called the US my home. However, this delicate new formed identity is soon challenged with the sudden news of moving back to the “homeland” due to my mother’s unexpected diagnosis.
Upon returning to Taiwan, I was enrolled in an all-girls Catholic high school and soon put through physical punishment and Asia’s authoritarian educational system. Excruciated by the idea of having to reshape my already muddled self-identity, I was forced to re-experience the life of an outsider. During this time I often lashed out at my mother, disguising the fear of losing her to cancer as teenage rage. At the heart of its story, AMERICAN GIRL is a mother-daughter drama about how families in crisis move towards death and healing.