A Great Wall

Genre: Feature/Comedy
Ethnicity: Chinese American
Themes: Cultural Crossing/Return Visit, Family and Intergenerational Issues, Identity/Representation
Date: 1986
Running Time: 100 min.
Director: Peter Wang
Producer: Shirley Sun
Availability: Widely available for purchase on DVD through retail venues (List Price: $14.95).  Also available on VHS.  Available for rental at many national-chain video stores such as Blockbuster and through Netflix.
Leo Fang, who immigrated to the United States when he was ten years old, returns to China with his wife Jan and son Paul to spend the summer with his older sister, brother-in-law, and niece, Lili, in Beijing.  The film explores the difficulties this reunited family has in communicating, both linguistically and culturally.  Each character evolves differently during the visit.  It is especially interesting to watch Leo’s adjustment to a China different from the one he left as a child and his brother-in-law’s fascination with yet vocalized distrust of American culture.  The film also follows a suitor of Lili named Liu, who after failing the college entrance examination twice continues to face his father’s pressure to pass the exam and make something of his life.  Although A Great Wall takes a humorous approach to certain cultural differences and stereotypes and verges on silly at some points (there is a ping pong showdown at the end), the film does bring up many serious issues such as discrimination in the American workplace, interracial dating, and Asian-American identity.

Special Jury Award, Sundance Film Festival (1986)

Asians/Asian Americans in Film and Television: A Bibliography of Materials in the UC Berkeley Libraries
Select A Great Wall from the pull-down menu of films.
Hubler, Eric.  "Cultural Common Ground: Shirley Sun, Putting Politics Aside In Her Film ‘A Great Wall.’"  Washington Post. July 10, 1986.
Interview with producer (Shirley Sun) about the making of the film.
Sun, Lena H.  "Peeking Over the ‘Great Wall’: A Camera Revolution; Film offers Glimpse of Chinese Culture."  Washington Post.  July 13, 1986.
Brief discussion of themes and background of the film.
Van Gelder, Lawrence.  "Out of China Comes a Comedy of Clashing Cultures."  New York Times.  May 25, 1986.

Interview with the director (Peter Wang) about the film, and his personal reflections on culture and modernization.

Supplementary Material
Ma, Jing-heng.  A Great Wall: A Learning Guide.  Ann Arbor, MI: University of Michigan Press, 1993.
This learning guide is available widely (amazon.com list price is $25.00).  A student audio cassette is also available as a supplement to the text.
Asian American Filmography ExEAS