Blog Entries

Go back to China

A Film Review

Go back to China
Directed by Emily Ting, Unbound Feet Productions
USA, 2019
English and Chinese, with English subtitles
95 minutes in duration

Showing at international film festivals. See Go back to China for listings.

Would you go back to China for a million bucks?  

That’s the question that Los Angeles fashionista Sasha Li is confronted with when her father in Dongguan calls to tell her that he is cutting off her milliondollar trust fund unless she returns to China to work in and learn the family business—a toy factory.  

Her reasons for not going back to China are numerous. She doesn’t like China. She has a newly minted fashion degree in hand and wants to work in that field, not in a toy factory. She doesn’t really know her father, who divorced her mom and sent them packing to the US and sends them money to maintain their expensive lifestyle. 

But she needs (wants) the money badly, so figures that she can put up with anything for a year and for a million bucks. With a suitcase in hand and a chip on her shoulder, she boards a flight to China, where surprises await her.  

In Shenzhen she joins her father and his young girlfriend in their gaudy mansion. There are two children living there as well, but it takes her awhile to find out just who they are. Her father runs the household and the factory as an emperor. She learns that most of the workers are from the countryside and separated from their families. And, horror of horrors, she discovers that she can’t access Facebook!

The story centers on Sasha coming to terms with his father’s complicated past and his somewhat tyrannical style of running his factory. And she must cope with the strained relationship she has with her sister, who remained in China to work with their father after Sasha and her mother were sent to America. In her sister’s mind, it is now Sasha’s turn to sacrifice for the sake of the family.  

While she never really fits in at the factory (she wants to befriend the workers, which goes against her father’s strict notions of maintaining a separation between boss and workers), she does gradually learn the business and is able to make some unique contributions. Along the way, she comes to understand that, even though she does not approve of her father’s authoritarian style and his driving ambition, he was doing everything to ensure a future for his children.  

It’s a cute film, with some interesting portrayals of pushing through cultural clashes and coming to terms with them. She may have returned to China for a million bucks, but she gained a lot more in the process.  

My only beef with the movie is a few instances of vulgar language at the beginning, but which fortunately did not make a re-appearance. 

Image Credit: Go Back To China
Joann Pittman

Joann Pittman

Joann Pittman is Vice President of Partnership and China Engagement and editor of ZGBriefs. Prior to joining ChinaSource, Joann spent 28 years working in China, as an English teacher, language student, program director, and cross-cultural trainer for organizations and businesses engaged in China. She has also taught Chinese at the University …View Full Bio

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