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WINNER - SXSW - Special Jury Award for Excellence in Observational Cinema
WINNER - Independent Film Festival of Boston - Special Jury Award

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Director's Statement


MAINELAND is part two of a trilogy of films (BEIJING TAXI was the first) looking at the changing sociocultural environment of contemporary China as well as engendering mutual understandings in U.S.–China relations.

I grew up in Beijing, and at age 12, I immigrated to the US with my parents. When I set foot on the US, I didn't speak any English. The next five years were very difficult but formative years. In my high school years, I struggled to learn and master the English language, while trying to understand social behaviors of my American peers. All along the process, it was the crucial support and guidance of many of my teachers that helped me gain confidence and slowly began to adjust and adapt. Crossing continents from one culture into another at that age is the single most important turning point for anyone who has gone through this experience. My transnational identity provides a bridging cultures perspective that reveals the nuances and humor of both cultures.

I have been intrigued by the Chinese’s increasing obsession with education. The emphasis on education is not a new phenomenon in China, but with stiff competition in “the New China,” a college education seems like a minimum requirement for any decent job opportunity. Every corner you turned, there were private tutors, exam prep agencies, afterschool and weekend classes, summer camps, study abroad info sessions all competing to advertise their services. There’s a growing middle class in China that wants to find the best education for their children, and they have a lot of resources to pour into their (typically) one child. From speaking with a sample group of students in high school and college in Beijing, it also seemed like everyone planned to study abroad.

In 2011, Fryeburg Academy invited me to screen BEIJING TAXI on their campus. Upon arrival, I realized Fryeburg (one of the oldest private schools in the US), has an international student body of 160, and out of that, 55 and more are Chinese. I became fascinated by the thought of these Chinese students flying into a small town in Maine, often setting foot on the US for the first time.

MAINELAND questions the expectations that Chinese families and the students themselves have about America, the discrepancies they experience, and the con ict that arises as a result. The film also raises some important questions: does studying abroad necessarily guarantee a better life for them? Some may integrate into American society; some may never make any non-Chinese friends, while some may return to China sometime after college as government or business leaders. How will an overseas perspective change a new generation of young Chinese and what may be that lasting impact be on the future of China and the world? Could they perhaps eventually become part of a bridge across the cultural divide? These are questions I hope to leave with the audience at the end of the film.

– Miao Wang





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