Dir.: Ann Hu; Cast: Harmonie He, Zhu Zhu, Amy Irving, Helen Slater, Li Ya Nan; USA/China 2021, 97 min.
Dyslexia is a common condition that bears no relation to intelligence. In CONFETTI Chinese-American writer/director Ann Hu presents an engaging, humanistic drama about the struggle for adequate education for dyslexic students in two vastly different cultures and countries namely China and the USA.
In China where dyslexia is barely recognised, Mei Mei (He), daughter of Lan (Zhu Zhu) and Lao Chen (Ya Nan) is teased and bullied at her small-town primary school. Lan, who is illiterate, fears her daughter will ostracised by society, having to do a menial job as a cleaner, like her illiterate mother. When Thomas, an American teacher, meets Mei Mei, he immediately suspects she is dyslexic: his sister displayed the same symptoms, but still went on to enjoy an academic career. Lan discusses the educational offering for dyslexic students in the USA and proposes she and Mei Mei emigrate there to benefit from these schools.
In New York Lan and Mei Mei stay with Thomas’ friend Helen McCellan (Irving), a wheelchair-bound writer who has lost her close family in a car crash, and is just in the process of finishing her book. The search for a suitable school gets underway in a much more positive way than in China where the authorities were blatantly ill-informed and unhelpful. But in the US money is the key to accessing schools and social services. Eventually, Lan and Helen come across ‘Horizon’, an institution catering for students with all kinds of special needs who are prepared to consider taking Mei Mei providing the child gets a neuro-psychological evaluation from a registered psychiatrist. And this does not come cheaply. But this means that Helen can connect personally with Dr. Wurmer (Slater), head of the ‘Horizon’; but Lan’s patience has run out, and she want to fly home to China.
As always in Hu’s feature, details play a big role; and culture clash is not just linguistic but brought about by very different expectations between the two countries, Hu letting sentimentality creep into a narrative whose structure does not leave much room for ambiguity. Still, Confetti – named after the colourful paper rain symbolising Mei Mei’s attempt to deal with language – is a worthwhile feature, but not one of her most intriguing as a director. AS
IN UK CINEMAS FROM 21 OCTOBER 2022 | IN SUPPORT OF THE BRITISH DYSLEXIA ASSOCIATION