Americanized (2021) Short Film Review


★★★★

Directed by: #EricaEng

Written by: #EricaEng

Starring: #TerryHu, #AmberGaston

Short Film Review by: Emily Davison

As her sophomore year of high school comes to an end, Eng (Hu) tries to find a sense of belonging within two worlds that do not accept her.

Americanized (2021) is a short sport drama, written and directed by Los Angeles based filmmaker Erica Eng. The short, set in Oakland’s hip-hop culture in the early 2000s, is based on her own experience playing high school basketball and has received much critical acclaim from film festivals. The film took home a Special Jury Award at the Palm Springs International ShortFest and won Best Short Film at Bentonville Film Festival – much deserved recognition for a powerful character-driven short about cross-cultural relationships and self-discovery.

Eng directs a beautiful looking film with energetic visuals, the colours of sunrise and sunset or the bright artificial glow of streetlights in a dark car park jumping off the screen and drawing the eye in. Although the film is covering some difficult subject matter, the cinematography maintains a high aesthetic appeal throughout and endears you to the story being told.

Americanized (2021) short film poster

We follow Chinese American student, Eng, played brilliantly by Terry Hu, as she struggles to integrate herself with her peers, especially with her beloved basketball team who she most often feels a sense of belonging and comradery with. She tries to make friends with her Chinese classmates too, but her altered appearance to fit in with the ‘black’ girls causes her to be excluded. A tense, uncomfortable scene shows Eng attempting to sit with some Chinese students, only for them to be offended by her and speak in their native language to each other, isolating Eng further who does not understand.

It is bittersweet when Eng eventually wins the next basketball game for the team, as she is called in to replace Steph (Gaston), the only girl to show true support for her, only to turn on Eng which leads to a devastating fallout between them. Eng is able to find a glimmer of recognition and shared understanding when her grandmother comforts her, who we discover had a nasty bruise on her cheek, which Eng now shares after a violent confrontation with Steph. The film is both poignant and eye opening in how it addresses the kind of abuse endured by those with dual or hybrid identities; all Eng wants to do is fit in with the hip hop culture which surrounds her and she never feels like she can.

Although the film is wonderfully captivating and full of thought provoking commentaries, I would have liked to see more with these interesting, dynamic characters – it is simply too short! Another scene perhaps showing how Eng dealt with the aftermath of what happened to her and what became of her relationship with the basketball team would have made a great epilogue to the narrative. On the other hand, it may have been director Eng’s intention to leave it up to her viewers and encourage them to reflect on the themes addressed.

Overall, Americanized is an enthralling short with a relevant, emotionally engaging story; a superb performance from its lead and sporting vibrant visuals – I cannot wait to see more from this exceptional filmmaker.

#EmilyDavison



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