UT student receives awards at National Film Festival for Talented Youth

Catherine Cardenas

“Lucky Girl” is a coming-of-age film that follows a 9-year-old girl struggling with cultural identity in a foreign world. When Sidi Wang created this film for her undergraduate thesis project, she addressed it as an apology to a girl she knew at 15.

Wang, radio-television-film senior, moved to the United States from China at 15 and lived with a host family. Wang said the family had previously adopted two girls from China, one of whom was very sensitive and emotional. She never understood why until her host mother told her a story of a common supermarket occurrence. 

“An old Chinese lady in the supermarket would come up to (the girl) and tell her, ‘Oh, you should know how lucky you are to be adopted to this family,’” Wang said. “I suddenly understood that feeling she has. Most of these comments are actually coming from people like me from China thinking that she is lucky to be adopted to the States. Obviously, she’s lucky, but nobody should tell her that to her face.”

Wang decided to use this experience as inspiration to create a film about a young adopted girl who celebrates her “Gotcha Day,” or the day her adoption was finalized, at a Chinese buffet that is overwhelmingly inauthentic. The film went on to win an audience award and a new talent award at the 2019 National Film Festival for Talented Youth.

The film’s cinematographer, UT alumna Mariana Gonzalez, said shooting on 16 mm film was difficult because it does not allow for as many takes as a digital camera would.

“We were filming inside of a Chinese buffet that was open for business, so there were so many moving parts,” Gonzalez said. “I (saw Wang) grow throughout production, juggling all these different aspects.”

Another obstacle the film faced was the audience’s understanding of the story’s depth, both from a Chinese and American cultural standpoint.

“I’ve been showing this to a lot of my Chinese friends, and they don’t necessarily understand the idea well because they don’t know the idea that a Chinese buffet in America doesn’t have real Chinese food,” Wang said. 

Zhixuan Li, producer of “Lucky Girl” and radio-television-film senior, said Wang pushed through the fear of cultural confusion to create a piece that was important to her. 

“As a director, (Wang) understands it’s important to be passionate about your film and tell what you want to tell and insist on your vision and then let it shine,” Li said. 

Wang said she is happy she continued to pursue her film despite the challenges. While the film may not be directly relatable to a wide audience, she said it is impactful for many. 
“During the festival, there were a lot of Asian American people coming up to me saying that they can relate to the story even though they’re not adopted,” Wang said. “This story is about identity and who they are, and it reaches them.”