What does it feel like to be a stranger in a country that you’ve lived in for twenty years? Transplant is an observational and reflective documentary about two rootless and tenacious Chinese immigrants who are trying to make a home on foreign soil. Lying somewhere between a dream and a nightmare, they came to the United States in their 40s and faced a tenuous existence in a land that never quite feels like home. Struggling with language barriers and the difficulties of life on the alien soil, they arduously try to fit in with American life and often find themselves caught between a rock and a hard place.
Director/Editor Zheyu Liang shared her motivations for making this heartwarming film; “In the 150-year-old large-scale overseas immigration of Chinese people, the United States has become one of the most popular immigrant countries. The Chinese people who arrived in the US as far back as the 1800s were typically railroad workers and other low-income workers. Nowadays, many wealthy Chinese can travel to the United States.
But there still remains a large group of first-generation Chinese immigrants who have little education and must work hard all day. Language and culture differences are the biggest barriers for them to integrate into American life. This reflective film is not a news profile about the American Dream, it’s about people who live along the periphery of that dream and it will serve as a meditation on what it means to be rootless and a perpetual foreigner.“
Transplant has a special place in Zheyu’s heart as the stories contained in the movie remind her of the time when she first came to the United States. Just like many people whose mother tongue isn’t English, the culture difference and language barrier were also challenges for her. Especially in the context of filmmaking, this profession demands lots of collaboration and communication to execute well on a shoot, an interview, an editing session, etc. Sometimes she found herself having a hard time expressing exactly what sheI wanted.
Compared to English speakers, during her first year of study at UCLA, she often had to spend twice as much time and put in so much extra work to keep up with her cohort. So she could deeply relate to her subjects’ stories and wanted to make a film to highlight these lived experiences that often go unseen.
Resonated with many people as well, the film Transplant was selected and screened at Austin Asian American Film Festival, Philadelphia Asian American Film Festival, 16th Chinese American Film Festival, CineAsian Films, Chinese Documentaries International Symposium and Screenings and many others. It was also the semifinalist at the Flickers’ Rhode Island International Film Festival.
Over the next few years, Zheyu plans to continue making more films that shed light on underrepresented communities and give global audiences a better picture of what life in the corner of the world actually looks like.