The journey begins with illuminating interviews and admission panel reviews in Shanghai, Guangzhou, and Shenzhen. The admissions officer interviews a colorful variety of students. Stella and Harry, our main protagonists, are accepted for the Fall 2012 semester at Fryeburg Academy, Maine, along with a gregarious cast of characters who weave throughout the film. Stella and Harry’s family and school life in China stands in contrast to their new lives in Maine. For three years, the film observes their normal teenage malaise, angst and frivolity, and their very different attempts at adapting to an American high school culture and education as they transition from a metropolitan Chinese to a rural American lifestyle.
Stella is outgoing and boisterous. Her American dream is of cute boys and a High School Musical–style school experience. Her parents expect her to take over the family manufacturing enterprise – but she wants to teach. Just before arriving in Maine, the life she knew shattered. Her parents divorced. Her mansion in Shanghai was emptied. Stella dives head first into her new social life in America. In China, dating is not allowed in high school; in America, Stella has many rotating boyfriends. She becomes a cheerleader and performs seductive dances during talent shows. Her mother is appalled listening to Stella’s stories back home.
Harry is reflective and philosophical. He seeks a Western-style schooling that encourages critical thinking. Like many Chinese boys his age, he has a videogame habit. Harry’s family urges him to retain traditional Chinese values. In a class in Maine, he researches the Tiananmen Square Massacre for the first time, and his findings enlighten him about both China and America.
Through lyrical cinematography that transports us from China to the U.S., MAINELAND captures a new crop of future Chinese elites as they try to find their place between the collectivist society they come from and the individualist culture they come to embrace. As Stella and Harry’s fuzzy visions of the American dream slowly gain more clarity, they ruminate on their experiences of alienation, culture clash, and personal identity, sharing new understandings and poignant discourses on home and country.
|Producer:||Violet Du Feng and Damon G. Smith|
|FILMMAKER IN ATTENDANCE!|
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