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Screening as part of the 2012 Toronto Reel Asian International Film Festival, Seeking Asian Female is a documentary by Debbie Lum that follows Steven, a 60-year-old man looking for an Asian bride. The original idea of exploring cultural stereotypes and Steven’s interest in Asian women quickly changes when Steven meets Sandy. Flying from China to California, Steven and Sandy have 90 days to either get married or have Sandy return to China. Debbie quickly becomes a part of their relationship, bridging the gap between two cultures using the Mandarin she learned in college to play translator and matchmaker.

Seeking Asian Female quickly becomes one of the more moving documentaries that this reviewer has watched. What begins as a film looking at a subject that director Debbie Lum dislikes, the idea of white men searching for the stereotypical idea of a subservient Asian woman, turns into a film about the challenges of relationships. This one just happens to have the extra challenge of two people who can barely understand each other.

Debbie seems to break the rules of being a documentary filmmaker by directly influencing the events she’s filming. She becomes the translator, and mediator, for Steven and Sandy. Instead of looking from the outside, she becomes an integral part of the relationship, keeping things together when they surely would have fallen apart. Like Debbie, viewers become friends with Steven and Sandy, wanting them to succeed, even when it seems impossible. By the end, you’ll surely need some tissue as we witness the ups and downs of Steven and Sandy.

Is Seeking Asian Female Essential Reel Asian Viewing?

There couldn’t be a bigger yes. Directors dream of the kind of emotional connection viewers will have with Steven and Sandy, and watching Debbie come from behind the camera to play a role in their relationship seems to go against the very idea of a documentary. By the time the credits roll, you’ll have made two new friends in Steven and Sandy, two people who will touch your heart and leave you wondering if they can be happy forever.

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