Cinema Quarantino is an ongoing series of alternative streaming picks for the self-quarantined and the socially distanced, as selected by the film staff of Boston Hassle. To browse the rest of our picks, click here.
The Film: An American Girl Story – Ivy & Julie 1976: A Happy Balance (2017) dir. Sasie Sealy
The Streamer: Amazon Prime
Since 1998, American Girl has brought U.S. history to girls outside of a classroom setting. From three original principal characters, the line grew to include several girls from different decades, places, and cultures. Eventually, Julie Albright and her best friend Ivy Ling were written. Set in 1976 San Francisco, their stories center on what it means to be a girl in a rapidly changing America. Julie wants to play basketball on the boys’ team, while Ivy is a Chinese-American gymnast.
An American Girl Story – Ivy & Julie 1976: A Happy Balance is a 43-minute film centering around Ivy’s struggles to be both Chinese and American. Her gymnastics team has been preparing for the All City meet, which happens to be on the same day as the Ling Family Reunion Dinner, which the entire family is attending. Since her parents allow her to make the decision of which event she’ll attend, Ivy (Nina Lu) wrestles with the choice of who to honor: her family or her sport? Her best friend, Julie (Hannah Nordberg), provides support, though she has problems of her own. Julie is trying to convince her sister to connect with their father again after their parents’ divorce. Luckily, Ivy has some advice for her in turn.
Directed by an Asian-American, Sasie Sealy, this film delves into what it was like to be Asian, American, and a woman in the 1970s. Ivy’s mother (Gwendoline Yeo) is studying to be a lawyer, and she has a heartfelt conversation with Ivy about why she”s working for the dream she wants, despite it being hard on the family. Ivy attends Chinese school reluctantly on the weekends, and it’s only through conversations with her immigrant grandparents that she understands the importance of maintaining that part of her family’s culture.
Though this is a film aimed at young girls, the Asian-American representation, as well as the message of being true to both yourself and your family, lands for peripheral audiences as well. The dilemma Ivy faces is not uncommon for people in the U.S., considering its melting pot nature. Gwendoline Yeo, Nina Lu, and Sasie Sealy all provide a familiar face for Asian-Americans in an industry that has only recently caught up with minority representation. It wasn’t so long ago that #AsianAugust was trending, after all, with the releases of Crazy Rich Asians and To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before. Therefore, take a chance on Ivy and Julie; these girls just might surprise you.
An American Girl Story – Ivy & Julie 1976: A Happy Balance
dir. Sasse Sealy
Now streaming on Amazon Prime.
Streaming is no substitute for taking in a screening at a locally owned cinema, and right now Boston’s most beloved theaters need your help to survive. If you have the means, the Hassle strongly recommends making a donation, purchasing a gift card, or becoming a member at the Brattle Theatre, Coolidge Corner Theatre, and/or the Somerville Theatre. Keep film alive, y’all.