Mao's Last Dancer, A Movie Review
by Harry DeMell
"Before you can fly, you have to be free." This is the subtitle of a new movie that is wonderful on many levels. Every reader of this newsletter will want to see it.
This is the story of a dancer from China who comes to the United States and discovers that only in a free environment can his talent truly flourish. He, of course, wishes to remain here and does so with the help of his immigration lawyer among others. This is a true story Hollywood style.
Played by Chi Chao, the main character Li Cunxin is a boy picked by the government of China to be sent to a special school to advance his dancing skills. Although less than enthusiastic he learns and gains the enthusiasm and skill to merit study in some unnamed program in the United States.
The plot is predicable but the execution is excellent. Actor Kyle MacLachlan plays immigration attorney Charles Foster. It's about time our profession got some recognition. There's the joke that 99% of the lawyers make the rest of us look bad. But in fact we help people each and every day. Foster is portrayed as a zealous defender of his client's rights and I might add truth justice and the American way. Our contributions are often overlooked but not here.
The movie demonstrates how government interference and control in the dancer's life stifled him. The Chinese government's concern with 'political correctness' is shown as an anathema to free expression and creativity. This is a lesson we often forget in today's politically correct America. Having spent time in China during the early 1980s when some of the events portrayed took place I am witness of a China where people are afraid to be free in any way, even in the arts. This has not yet completely changed. China still has a long way to go. This is a lesson of what America should not be.
Joan Chen, as always, is wonderful as Li's mother. She is able to bridge the different ages she portrays at different points in Li's life.
For those who love dancing, this movie will move and captivate you. The dance scenes are excellent and riveting. Dance scenes, as well as drum solos, can get boring if too long or not done well. There is no danger of this happening in Mao's Last Dancer. The music never seems repetitious or strained.
As a love story the movie falls to a B+ from an A+. That part of this review is better left out. See for yourself.
Watching this movie made me think how lucky I was to be born in America. We have freedom handed to us on a silver platter and often we fail to see it. Some say the glass is half full and some say half empty. We are all handed a glass half full. It is up to us to either fill it or drain it. We are free to peruse our dreams and fly.
Harry DeMell is an attorney practicing exclusively in the area of visa, immigration and nationality law since 1977. He is a member of AILA and has been a member of the AILA's annual planning committee, participated in their lobbying efforts, and is a mentor to other members.
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