Red Doors

Director: Georgia Lee

First time writer/director Georgia Lee used her business school background, Chinese-American heritage and love of film to inspire this unusual debut work that won the Best Narrative Feature award when it premiered at the Tribecca Film Festival. The film’s title, which alludes to both the red front doors that hang on the Wong family home and the Chinese belief that they will bring the occupants good luck help sets up the irony for the various issues that the dysfunctional family encounters while at specifically unique crossroads in their own personal lives. Lee’s film, which also won a Special Jury Prize for the ensemble actors at the Cinvegas International Film Festival and two awards from HBO at L.A.’s Outfest boasts a wonderful cast that disappears into their roles minutes into the movie. Shot in just 23 days in both the Waterford, Connecticut home of Lee’s parents and in and around Manhattan, Lee takes us on a engrossing journey of family duty, love and the importance of discovering one’s own sense of self and purpose in life. Shortly after the film begins, we meet patriarch Ed Wong (Tzi Ma), who, feeling worthless from his recent retirement and out of the loop of his grown daughter’s lives, has made over thirty fruitless suicidal attempts that keep getting interrupted by his family, who have gotten fairly used to catching him in the act. Despite this introduction and its immediate placement in the film’s misleading trailer, Lee's movie is filled with more Harold and Maude styled dark humor instead of turning the piece into an advertisement for a crisis center. Rounding out the family is the traditional mother May-Li (Freda Foh Shen) who tries to hold everything together and ensure the best for her three bright and beautiful daughters, each of whom are going through a crisis of their own and trying to find their way. The eldest daughter Samantha (Jacqueline Kim) seems from the outside to have the picture perfect life—a successful career and an engagement to a highly compatible man but she begins to have doubts when she runs into the man that got away while picking up her rebellious youngest sister Katie (Kathy Shai-Lin Lee) from school. Unlike her quieter sister Julie (Elaine Kao), a talented surgical student who has begun to discover an attraction to women but takes baby steps when faced with this desire, Katie is a dangerous extravert, engaging in a full-on war with a boy from her high school that begins with tiny pranks incited by puppy love but quickly escalates into riskier and more outlandish stunts. Lee’s perceptively written and deftly acted film is made all the more real by an understated style and easy transition from one character to the next as opposed to the now trendy hyper cuts and over-the-top satire found in most traditional American dysfunctional family films and hers is all the more special because while on one level, it’s refreshing to see an Asian family onscreen in a completely liberating and stereotype-free way, it’s a film that one can relate to regardless of any ethnicity and a stellar achievement for such a young filmmaker.