Directed by Julia Kwan. Canada. 2005.

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Voted the most popular Canadian film at the 2005 Vancouver Film Festival and winner of the Special Jury Prize in the World Dramatic category of the Sundance Film Festival, Vancouver director Julia Kwan's Eve and the Fire Horse weaves an imaginative tale of the spiritual awakening of two young Chinese-Canadian sisters. The film is set in Vancouver, Canada in the 1970s and is loosely based on the director's personal memories of her immigrant experience. As the film opens, nine-year old Eve (Phoebe Jojo Kut) explains that she was born in 1966, the year of the fire horse, an event that takes place only every sixty years and is considered to bring bad luck.  

According to Ms. Kwan, "the last time it occurred, the abortion rates spiked in Asia because nobody wanted a child who was a fire horse. A fire horse is a strong-willed and independent thinker and independent thinking isnít a very Confucian thing where youíre supposed to submit to parental authority." In Eve's imagination, she sees the unwanted fire horses drowning underwater. In her mind, her bad luck is manifested when her mother (Vivian Wu) suffers a miscarriage after cutting down an apple tree, her uncle (Joseph Siu Kin Hing) chokes on some noodles, and her grandmother (Ping Sun Wong) dies shortly after watering the garden.  

Seeing Buddhism as a religion of luck and superstition, Eve and her 11-year old sister Karena (Hollie Lo) turn away their family's traditional religion to embrace Catholicism after they receive a book about Jesus from door-to-door evangelists. Karena immediately becomes a strong believer and Eve follows along, though she does ask questions about whether Jesus and Buddha are friends. In her imagination, she pictures Jesus and Buddha dancing together in her living room. The girls form an order they call "The Daughters of Perpetual Sorrow" and perform charitable deeds around the neighborhood. Their father Frank (Lester Chit-Man Chan) is upset when the girls say grace at dinner and when they will not honor their ancestors by bowing, but the family's innate stoicism and desire to assimilate takes precedence over their beliefs. Their mother sends the girls to Sunday School saying that two Gods are better than one (a very pragmatic approach), and they begin to bring crosses and pictures of Jesus into the home.  

Although her father tells Eve that her grandmother will be reincarnated as a goldfish, an idea Eve finds very comforting, she is told in Sunday School that her grandmother has been sent to Hell for being a Buddhist, but this does not seem to deter her. She learns the proper position for praying, watches as Karena aggressively tries to convert a young Sikh boy to Jesus, and participates in a scary baptism ritual in her bathtub. Eve and the Fire Horse is a heartfelt film and while it has much to recommend it, I found the performances weak and the film disjointed and lacking in a clear point of view. Without commenting on aggressive Christian proselytizing, the film appears to endorse it in spite of a near-death experience in which God embraces all faiths.  


Howard Schumann
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