The DeBartolo Performing Arts Center recently hosted a showing of the semi-autobiographical independent film “Children of Invention.” Directed by Tze Chun, the film tells the story of a single mother, a Chinese immigrant who is struggling to provide for her family. Based in Quincy, Massachusetts, the film highlights the hardship immigrant families endure in their pursuit of the American dream.
Elaine Chang and her two children, Raymond and Tina, are the film’s protagonists. In the opening scene, Elaine is trying to get her $2,000 investment back from a failed network marketing company. Eventually, the family is evicted.
While they are moving out, Tina innocently asks her mother why the police are present. Elaine responds by saying that the police “are making sure no one takes… [their] things.” This comment, and similar scenes, demonstrate the way in which the mother constantly tries to shield her two children from the harsh reality of their circumstances.
Thanks to a family friend, the Changs move into condominiums that are not yet zoned for renting. Elaine then begins the strenuous task of answering ads in order to find a new business opportunity. She believes her luck has turned around when she makes an investment, with borrowed money, in Gold Rep, another network marketing company.
Soon, however, she comes to realize that Gold Rep is a scam. In desperation she goes to the company owner’s home in an effort to get her first check. The police are at the house investigating this pyramid scheme, and they take Elaine in for questioning.
Meanwhile, Raymond and Tina are left alone. Raymond, being the eldest, does his best to maintain a sense of normalcy after his mother does not return home after a day. The money and food in the apartment soon run out, and he comes to believe that his mother, like his father, has abandoned them. Tina refuses to believe that their mother has deserted them, but Raymond decides that they must travel into Boston to withdraw the savings in his account.
An earlier scene in the movie demonstrates Raymond’s creativity in inventing things, such as spaghetti spinners. He thinks that he can support his family with his savings by mass produce his inventions, and perhaps even buy back their old home. Tina and Raymond return from Boston with the money, but the next day they are picked up by child services.
Things are quickly resolved when the police realize that Elaine was just another victim of the pyramid scheme. Child services contact the police, and the Chang family is reunited. Once they return home Elaine discovers that Raymond harbors resentment towards her, as he tells her that they are “always fine without her.” The mother breaks down in tears and promises that she “will make everything better.”
“Children of Invention” was a raw and powerful film. Their desperate desire to survive is highlighted, as everyday people may invest into Gold Rep or other scam businesses in an effort to reach that better life.
The hope and perseverance Elaine demonstrates in the face of many obstacles is truly at the heart of the film. Belief in a better tomorrow forms the basis for “Children of Invention.”
Vanessa Samaniego is a sophomore Program of Liberal Studies/theology major. She likes to cook. She can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.