Nearly 200 people gathered in CC 1080 to enjoy Kearen Pang’s dramatic film 29+1. Originally a one-woman theater performance, 29+1 brings together two different women that share the same inescapable reality of turning 30 years old. 29+1 was the first of four movies that will be shown during UTM’s 50th Anniversary Film Festival.

29+1 was selected to represent the diversity of UTM and surrounding communities, and I think it fulfilled this purpose. 29+1 was produced in Hong Kong, and the two female leads, Chrissie Chau and Joyce Cheng, are both from Hong Kong.

Being a woman of East Asian descent myself, the movie speaks to me on many levels. However, what I love the most is that while the movie penetratingly reflects the Hong Kong culture, no one in the audience was left behind to understand the delicacy of the movie. The audience was incredibly diverse in ethnicity, age, and profession. A little East Asian girl with shorts and sneakers subtly caught her breath in the corner because she was running late, and a senior-aged man sat solemnly by the front, bearing a strange resemblance to Ernest Hemingway. No matter what your background was, everyone in the audience enjoyed the movie. I know because I heard so much laughter.

Christy, played by Chau, is your stereotypical white-collar business woman. Beautiful, successful, and independent, she spends her morning counting the calories in her corn flakes and coating her face with dozens of beauty products. She has everything under control, or at least she tries. However, she’s not happy. Like many people her age, she’s chasing after the wrong things. Wong Tin-Lok, played by Cheng, is very different. Although unattractive by society’s standards, Wong Tin-Lok is content with what she has and lives a very simple life. She’s happy and she infects people with her goofy smiles. The two women never meet, but their lives entwine in the most intricate way possible. In the end, Wong Tin-Lok saves Christy, despite not knowing a thing about it.

I love both roles equally because I think every woman has a Christy and a Wong Tin-Lok living inside them. My ‘Christy’ pushes me to achieve higher. She gives me motivation, but at the same time, makes me feel inadequate. My ‘Wong Tin-Lok’ tells me that only my happiness matters. She helps me to stay true to myself and to others. However, sometimes I’m ashamed to bring her out. I don’t know to whom I should listen to more, but I do know that both are searching for the same thing.

Following the screening of 29+1, there was a Q&A session with the director, Kearen Pang, accompanied by faculty members, Larry Switzky from the Department of English and Drama, Anders Bergstrom from the Department of Visual Studies, and Rosa Hong from the Department of Language Studies. Pang answered every question the audience had regarding her original script, performance, and the process of adapting it to a movie.

Towards the end, I asked Pang one question: if she could send one message to all the female audience in this room, what would it be? She responded that it would be to acknowledge the changes happening in our life. Embrace these changes because life goes on. Just like in the final message of the movie: “All stages start at zero.” Life is made up of many new starts.