A painful yet stunning film, Christina Yoon’s Motherland emotionally flattens you. Tiffany Chu’s performance almost destroys you as her character tries to search for the truth about herself.
Leah (Tiffany Chu), a Korean adoptee raised in America, returns to Korea to search for her birth mother. Leah is met with secrecy from the adoption agency as well as her own family but remains relentless on her solo journey, driven by her longing to discover the truth of her origins.
Being adopted with no knowledge of who your parents are is a challenging position to be in as a young person. You have an endless void just ever-present within you, questions that may never be answered, not just about your future health but your heritage. For people like Leah, born in one country but raised in another, it creates an even more significant void within her. Her challenge to garner the tiniest of details about her life can only be given if her parents want to provide it.
Leah’s desperation for answers gnaws at your soul throughout Motherland; you want her to find the answers she deserves to know. But you are so wrapped up in fear for her that if she doesn’t get what she is yearning for, it may break her. She travels across the world to get her answers, and when she looks like she is getting somewhere, a wall is thrown at her. From there, Christina Yoon’s film takes us on a rollercoaster of emotions.
By keeping us in Leah’s point of view, a foreigner in a land she has never known, we are often left to wonder how much truth is being said to us. Is she being told information to keep her away, or is there truth in there? To have Leah be so relentless perhaps hurts us more as an audience. She has to know as much information as she can, she has to meet her mother, but life is never as easy as that, and Yoon makes sure to hammer that point home in Motherland.
Tiffany Chu is just as fantastic as the desperate Leah, playing the role of a young woman whose family and past have been purposely kept from her because of societal reasons. Writer-Director Christina Yoon breaks your heart with Motherland, ever keeping those lingering what-ifs hanging around Leah and the audience’s head; the doubts and insecurities never entirely go away in those 18 minutes. But when they do, pain is usually what follows. All of this is told crushingly with Chu; as we watch her in those final minutes, on the cusp of falling into many pieces, you wonder how long it will take for her to recover. Will she still try and find more answers, or is that it for her on this journey?
It is an essential watch that yanks at every heartstring imaginable. Motherland is a wrecking ball of a film that shows the immense talent that Yoon has as a filmmaker with another exceptional short film.
The 19th HollyShorts Film Festival is running between 10th – 20th August with in person and digital screenings available through the 10th to 27th August.
For more information go to www.hollyshorts.com
Coverage of HollyShorts Film Festival 2023:
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