Monthly Archives: January 2006

Eve and the Fire Horse: child's view of the world pokes questions at multicultural dichotomies

Eve and the Fire Horse:

child's view of the world pokes questions at multicultural dichotomies

There is deservedly lots of buzz happening for Eve and the Fire Horse.  Writer/Director Julia Kwan and her crew have just won the Sundance Special Jury Prize.  Film critic Roger Ebert called the movie “the most beloved film at Sundance.”  Pretty darn good for Julia Kwan's first full length movie, shopping itself for a US distributor at the most influential independent film festival.

Many people have said they relate to the film's stories and characters, regardless of ethnicity.  The two sisters speak English to each other and the younger 9 year old Eve also narrates. Phoebe Kut stars as the central figure Eve, and Hollie Lo plays her older sister Karina.  Their parents speak Cantonese Chinese to them, the kids answer in English.  This is not a theatrical device – Julia Kwan says this is typical of many immigrant families. This could be any first and second generation immigrant group as they adapt to wherever they are now settled.

The Year of the Fire Horse is a special type of person born in the year of the Horse.  Each of the 5 elements Earth, Metal, Water, Air and Fire give a special additional quality to the Chinese zodiac animal.  Fire Horse year was 1966, and the children are supposed to be especially spirited and stubborn, and even troublesome.  This personality trait for Eve helps to move the film forward as well as help create a wonderful title, movie logo, and release date for Chinese New Year.

The kids also struggle with making friends, settling in with their peer group, and finding a way to reconcile their family's buddhist beliefs with the Christian elements in Canadian North American society.  The film opens with a Chinese New Year dinner where clashes between superstitions and common sense can be questioned through the children's comments and explanations of traditions.  Along the way we meet a small caucasian girl who is picked on by the school bullies and called “PWT”, explained by the 11 year old older sister Karina to Eve, as “poor white trash.”

“Are we poor white trash?” asks Eve.

“No… we're not white.” Karina answers.

There is something special about how 9 year old children struggle to make sense of the world and it's seeming dichotomies.  Julia Kwan allows viewers into the world of Eve, as she is allowed flights of imagination in her conversations with the Chinese goddess of the kitchen, the statue of Buddha, and their new room mate Jesus, as the girls now start going to Catholic Sunday School. 

“Two gods in the house must bring better luck than one,” thinks the logic of their mother May Lin Eng, played wonderfully by Vivienne Wu.

The film follows a series of incidents such as an uncle going to the hospital after choking because he refused to spit out his “long-life noodles,” the unexpected death of a grandparent, and a hospital procedure for their father.  This allows Phoebe to wonder about how the world works, through reincarnation, funerals, hospitals and Sunday School.

There are so many episodes that I could relate to from my own life: such as being asked in Grade 5 by a school friend to attend a social event, that turns into a education session about Jesus Christ; recalling the funerals and times of passing of my paternal grandparents who always spoke exclusively in Chinese to me – even though I could only speak English.  And then there is the delight of Eve recieving her very first pet – a gold fish!  Eve and her fish – this is one of the most delightful scenes in the movie, as Eve's imagination takes flight.

After the Vancouver Chinatown New Year's parade I hang with my new friends, producer Yve Ma with his daughter on my left, and actor Phoebe Kut and her friends on my right – photo Deb Martin.

Gung Haggis Fat Choy goes Whistler style – slow cooked on a BBQ!

Gung Haggis Fat Choy goes Whistler style
– slow cooked on a BBQ!

Adam Protter shows his “ready sleight” with his cooking knife (cleaver) mixing chowmein, haggis, roast duck, green beans, and bashed neeps. – photo courtesy of Adam Protter.

Well they say that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.  Last week on CBC Radio's national program “Freestyle”,  I said that I would like to see Gung Haggis Fat Choy dinners coast to coast across Canada, and that my friends in Victoria, Toronto, Winnipeg, Montreal and Halifax would be hosting their own forms of Gung Haggis Fat Choy dinners, and hoisting a glass to “Toddish McWong.”

Adam Protter is a a caterer in Whistler (
who insists on holding a Robbie Burns Day Dinner every year. He is also
one of the founding members of the Whistler Slow Food Society.  Adam sent me this report to share…

My Burns
dinners are usually accompanied by much grumbling, eye rolling and
cries of “Do I have to eat the Haggis?” I
was thrilled to learn of your observation that Robbie Burns Day and The
Chinese New Year coincide in the same week and that a joint celebration
was in order!

So I hosted a dinner last night for a few friends

made some Peking Style, Tea Smoked Duck, Haggis (it's the good
stuff from Peter Blacks Scottish Butcher in West Van).  I tea smoked
with the ducks, the other was steamed. I also stir-fried some Sichuan
Green Beans, using a Sichuan Chili, Garlc & Peanut paste. Rounding
out the meal were Roasted Garlic Ginger Chow Mein noodles with cabbage,
carrot, onions & peppers and Bashed Neeps (mashed Turnips &

We had a decent Scotch Whiskey, lots of Wine and just for fun, a chocolate/marsala Pannetone cake.
Oh god, it was good!

I am bummed I missed you dinnner this year at Floata, both for the food and Rick Scott.
I'll try to do it next year and get some ideas for my own.  (Todd's note:  Adam… next year's Gung Haggis Fat Choy Dinner will be January 27th at Floata, in Vancouver Chinatown)

BBQ Haggis – yum yum… but it must be slow cooked!  –
– photo Adam Protter

of us were wearing  a bright red item of clothing. One of my guests,
Sheila McQuillan, read the last two verses of Robbie Burns' Ode to the
haggis as I splashed a wee dram of good Single Malt over it's
glistening, steaming, beauty. I then slashed the Noble Pud open to
reveal it's tasty insides. The Proclaimers were playing on iTunes and I
said the Selkirk Grace:

Some hae meat and canna
And some wad eat that want it;
But we hae meat, and we can
And sae the Lord be thankit.
– Robert Burns

That's about the point where discipline failed. We reverted to our adopted Japanese customs ” Itadakimasu”,
“Kampai” & Gochisosama Deshita” (we're a Karate family with many
Japanese friends & my eldest daughter went to Japan last summer on
a school exchange). (Todd's
note: not to worry, this year's GHFC Vancouver dinner had a distinct
Japanese-Canadian presence with writers Joy Kogawa, Lensey Namioka and
animater Jeff Chiba Stearns).

– photo Adam Protter

It degenerated into Chocolate Marsala Panetone with
offee & Bailey's Irish Cream fortified with tumblers of scotch
whisky. I redeemed myself this morning with fried haggis, eggs
and tomatoes for breakfast.
We also acknowledged your creative contribution and had a whack of fun!  I
am very interested in taking this latest obsession to new heights and
look forward to receiving your guidance to help us on our journey.

was disappointed in my duck. It was tender and tasty, but the
skin didn't crisp and I wanted a sweet glaze on it as well as a bright
red colour. I added Annatto seed paste to the marinade to get
a red colour, but the results were so so. The spices were gritty so
I'll use my spice/coffee grinder longer next time as well as starting a
day earlier and then let the duck dry in the fridge for 24 hours before
cooking. The smoking packet didn't work very well, rice, sugar &
tea in a foil envelope with holes.
Got any recipes you are allowed to share?

Cheers & Thanks

Smoke Pit BBQ & Event Catering

“… and I know you gonna dig it!”