(Femme Film Fest 2021)
Her parents’ ambitions and ill-fitting college programme turn a young Chinese woman’s university life into a series of challenges and obstacles, tackling social differences and the desire to belong to a larger group as an evolving individual. The harsh journey paved with solitude and disinterest from those around her highlights the difficulties of leaving one’s true home and setting sail alone in the world. “Parachute” provides a social commentary-scale narrative, fusing key concepts, such as youth, minorities, individuality and life, illustrating the inevitable reality in which people have to overcome social and cultural barriers. Battling to form her character as an independent young woman, while needing to improve her student profile is strenuous when she is doing something she doesn’t quite enjoy.
Wendy (the protagonist of this critically-acclaimed short, played by Nicky Zou) finds herself in the United States, enrolled at Stanford University, seemingly to fulfil her parents’ requests. She soon realises that her professors tend to ignore students’ needs rather than become useful mentors or even provide any helpful insights. While talking to her mother over the phone, she subtly attempts to tell her once again about the negative experience moving from home has been so far, but the effort is met with little to no interest.
The storyline changes drastically and Wendy’s true personality comes to light once a new Chinese student decides to live at the same house as her. The discrepancies between the two women become stronger and more dramatic as the days go by, unravelling unexpected results. Wendy is portrayed as the complete opposite of Mei-Ling (Zoe Lau), the newcomer whose student life prospers right from the start, thanks to her being much more academically-oriented and eager to perform well in her exams. The lack of dedication on Wendy’s part, paired with the complete disregard for using proper teaching methods shown by the University’s faculty, affect her school performance immensely.
Writer and director Katherine Tolentino received the University Short Film Award at the Hamptons International Film Festival for her work in “Parachute”, as well as recognition for her storytelling achievements as part of the official selections for Palm Springs International Short Film Festival, Cinequest Film & VR Festival, Los Angeles Asian Pacific Film Festival and many more.
The main and supporting actresses interpret their characters’ aspirations and determination in a professional manner, allowing the viewers to sense the story’s resolve adequately. In terms of scripting, the short was filmed and conceived in such a way that the audience’s attention would always follow the protagonist’s perspective and destiny. Centred around Wendy, displaying her every thought and own perception of the outside world, the plot makes for a remarkable display of uncertainty, hostility and struggle.