'Seeking Asian Female' Film Exposes Men With 'Yellow Fever'


At first things go well. Steven loses 16 pounds, living on "sex and vegetables." Sandy is thrilled to be in America after being born into a poor family and working in a factory. She plans the wedding of her dreams paid for by his brother. Sandy plans to study to be a nurse.

But trouble erupts when Sandy finds old emails between Steven and a former Chinese girlfriend, Molly. He struggles to explain to her that that relationship was in the past and that he, indeed, loves her.

As Sandy and Steven began to quarrel, Lum said she decided to go with the drama. But soon, she mediated arguments, speaking in Chinese to Sandy and translating back to Steven.

"It was exhausting for one thing," said Lum. "When you are making a documentary, you dive in and once you commit, you are in it for the long haul."

Jealousies ensue over Steven's past relationships, and eventually the couple separates for four months as Sandy lives with American friends. "It's too late to go back home," Sandy tells Lum in Chinese. "I'll lose face."

Even Lum gets ensnared in the arguments, as Steven tells her bluntly, "You are not God -- you're just a director." She wonders if as a filmmaker, she is too involved.

In the end, this relationship that both Lum and the viewers expect to fail, triumphs over cross-cultural misunderstandings.

Lum hopes that the film will start a conversation. Steven's "obsession with any Asian woman has been replaced with a real-live Sandy," she says at the end of the film. Lum admits she had assumed negative stereotypes about Sandy, as well.

"Some know about yellow fever, and some have never heard of it, but it's very painful for the Asian-American community," said Lum.

"What I would love is for people to talk about in new ways that engage conversations. The story is about expectations and stereotypes, which are very related -- stereotypes about white guys, and expectations going into a relationship."

Today, Lum is still in touch with Steven and Sandy, who have been married now for four years.

"People always ask me about them when they see the film," she said. "But I don't have a crystal ball -- I don't know how it will turn out. But four years, that's longer than Hollywood."

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