When this film opens with Sasha Li accidentally knocking over the groceries of a random white woman and is met with “you people come here and ruin everything…go back to China, I thought I was a about to witness a film commenting on the state of racial affairs in America. Needless to say I was pleasantly surprised.
Sasha (Anna Akana) is spoiled, selfish, lives in the moment and off of her father’s bank account. Like most high school grads, she struggles with a career identity crisis. After yet another night of partying with girlfriends for her birthday running up a tab of $2K, her card is declined, Apparently her Dad has cut her off until she agrees to literally “go back to china” to learn the family business of manufacturing toys in Shenzhen.
Loosely based on a family experience of director Emily Ting, Go Back To China is a hilarious comedy with heart. Ting spent 12 years working for her family’s toy factory and eventually came to love her new life. Bringing her back to China was her father’s way of teaching a life lesson she couldn’t learn from him in Los Angeles. He could only teach her respect, dignity and a better sense of self by giving her responsibility for her own life and learning to care more about the needs of others than her own. Go Back to China is not a “Chinese” story, but a story of family humanity.
YouTube sensation Anna Akana is sparkly and the perfect energetic persona to inhabit Sasha making a great counter to her on-screen sister Carol (Lynn Chen). Richard Ng (Teddy Li) is perfection. He delicately balances the persona of being a tyrannical, yet loving Dad with grace and ease. Emily Ting is a needed voice in cinema because she displays life in a way that you won’t see anywhere else. It’s real, raw and relevant. She graciously allowed me to chat with her about all these things and more. Take a listen. Go Back To China screens for the final time March 15 at SXSW.
INTERVIEW WITH EMILY TING