A young Chinese New Zealander and her Pakeha boyfriend seek her parents’ blessing for their marriage in Roseanne Liang’s funny and poignant documentary of cross-cultural navigation.
Screened as part of NZIFF 2005
The Banana in question is Roseanne Liang, a young woman who’s grown up in a very traditional Chinese home with parents who’d prefer not to know that she has been in love for the last eight years with a white New Zealander. Liang has come close to being disowned by her parents more than once, but she’s maintained a certain decorum – returning home every morning before breakfast – and kept the peace. Liang opens her documentary account of her problem at the point when her boyfriend is gathering the nerve to ask her father for permission to marry her. Before the film is over he will have been obliged to learn to speak Mandarin Chinese before the father, who has spoken English for years, will even listen. Combining voice-over, staged flashbacks, interviews and reality TV-type coverage of the big showdown, Liang’s documentary is energised by her quick wit and a lively spirit of exasperation. Funny but serious at heart, this portrait of a young Chinese New Zealander’s cross-cultural navigation could hardly be more appealingly one-sided or more generously self-centred. — BG
The slang definition of ‘Banana’ is ‘an Asian who has been brought up in Western society: yellow on the outside, white on the inside’. Well, that’s me. And this is my story, in a nutshell. Banana in a Nutshell was originally a short documentary I devised to distract me from the highly emotional events that I knew I would have to get through. The camera was something to hide behind. A task to focus on, writing the film was catharsis, a way to deal with frustrations in a productive way. I shouldn’t have been too surprised by the film that resulted, but I was.
As the film (confidentially) has a happy ending, I believe its underlying message is that navigating between diverse cultures can be difficult, but if the process is given due time and respect, the ultimate result is satisfying and worthwhile! And this idea of measured resolution rather than the imperialism of inflexible value systems applies to cross-cultural navigations the world over. But at the end of the day, Banana in a Nutshell is simply my love story. It’s a story that I know isn’t uncommon, and I bare my heart in the hope of finding sympathetic, and empathetic others. — Roseanne Liang