Steven is a white male, twice-divorced and in his early 60s who fantasizes about having a sweet, subservient Asian bride; a “nightmare” for our narrator, Chinese-American filmmaker Debbie Lum, and an inflammatory subject at best. But after meeting Steven, Debbie decides his “yellow fever” is maybe the perfect subject for a documentary exposé of cultural stereotyping —until his fantasy comes true when Steven meets Sandy online who is a 30-year- old woman from Shenzen, China. Expectations are overturned and misunderstanding reigns when Sandy leaves China for the first time and lands in California to marry Steven. With a healthy dose of skepticism and humour, Seeking Asian Female tells the universal yet specific story of marriage and the battle of the sexes, while wading the murky waters of documentary ethics.
Without a green card, Sandy is house-bound but she is far from the docile mate Steven expected. Following Steven and Sandy through the rocky beginnings of their relationship, Debbie is thrown into the middle of their bizarre union to translate with her college-learnt Mandarin, and must challenge her own perspective and bias. Steven and Sandy establish an erratic bond and fragile trust that is tested daily, while Debbie asks herself if she has gone too far in steering their marriage for her lens. Bridging the gap between cultures is a position that mirrors the cross-cultural complexities of her own history: growing up Chinese American. Cleverly eschewing a sensationalist or exploitative approach, Debbie Lum navigates provocative ground with wit and empathy. Intimate and candidly quirky, Seeking Asian Female is ultimately a three-voiced story of dismantling stereotypes and building cultural sensitivity, that translates the complexities of globalization into a personal tale of compassion.