In A THOUSAND YEARS OF GOOD PRAYERS, elderly Mr. Shi (Henry O) arrives from China to spend time with his divorced daughter, Yilan (Faye Yu), hoping to help her sort out her life in this strange new country. That, after all, is his duty as a parent. Yilan, although polite, doesn’t feel like being the dutiful daughter. Unlike Geraldine in DIM SUM, Yilan can’t wait to be rid of her parent, whose need to pry into and control her like becomes a nuisance – even if he does lovingly cook up multi-course meals for her at the end of the workday. Where sharing meals served as familial and cultural bonding in DIM SUM, it is seen as an intrusion for Yilan, who longs to have her own private life back again. Despite going through Yilan’s things while she’s at work and trying to pry information from her, Mr. Shi cannot understand his daughter or the rift between them. The only person he shares some connection with in this cold new universe is Madam (Vida Ghahremani), an elderly but vivacious Iranian woman living with her son and his family. They begin to meet regularly on a local park bench. Without a common language, they resort to expressing themselves to one another in a mix of their respective languages and broken English. While they seem to communicate with each other easily, Mr. Shi and his daughter find themselves at an impasse. The problem is generational and geographical; it is also in the language, as one day Yilan reveals to her father that expressing herself in English is far easier than in Chinese. There is wry humor in Mr. Shi trying to understand his daughter, as well as this country she has adopted as her own. There is also a sense of seeking clues to a mystery. As Wang explains, “I wanted it to be a mystery that Shi comes to solve. Arriving in a strange land to visit a strange daughter he hasn’t seen in many years, Shi begins to peel back the layers of the life like he takes apart the Russian nesting dolls on her dressing table.” (Source)
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