An adopted Chinese girl discovers a Chinese buffet doesn’t serve ‘real Chinese food’. | Lucky Girl

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Esther is a nine-year-old Chinese girl who was adopted eight years ago by a Pennsylvania family. Her family loves her, and surrounds her with love, stability and affection.

But when she spends some time with a Chinese neighbor and her daughter, Esther starts to realize the balance isn’t so easy. And when her family takes her out to a Chinese food buffet to celebrate her “Gotcha Day” — the day she was officially adopted — Esther realizes that it might not be “real Chinese food,” and questions her own identity in the process.

Written and directed by Sidi Wang, this crystalline, quiet drama has both a self-possessed sensitivity and exquisite visuals, in how it captures the ebbs and flows of a young girl’s shifting sense of identity. At a crossroads in her understanding of herself, she realizes her difference from her new home and family, which sends quiet but deep reverberations in her feelings of belonging.

The film’s most immediate characteristics are how just quiet it is. Its approach to visuals has a stillness, with a willingness to hold shots and allow movements and actions to play out. The camerawork seems to mirror Esther’s way of looking at the world, especially in how it holds small details that move beyond mundanity into something poetic. Esther is trying to puzzle out the mores, rules and concepts that are unspoken and perhaps even unconscious.

The biggest puzzle for her is the Chinese part of her identity, which comes to the fore when she spends time with a Chinese-born neighbor and her daughter, who is slightly older than Esther. In that small amount of time, Esther gains an idea of what it would be like to grow up in the culture and country where she was born: what she would eat, what she would learn, what language she would speak. The writing and storytelling here take a similarly restrained approach as the visuals, with thoughtfulness in the dialogue and a focus on Esther’s inner experience.

Young actor Jada Ferraro captures Esther’s absorption of these new ideas and feelings with understated nuance, portraying Esther as very sensitive but also self-contained. The performance also captures, with delicate precision, the subtle shifts in Esther’s understanding of her life and her self, especially when she is told what a lucky girl she is to have been adopted. Though the sentiment is kindly intended, Esther becomes aware that the Chinese aspect of herself has perhaps been erased or minimized in her transition to her new family — one that leaves her feeling inadequate or incomplete.

Told with precision, gentleness and empathy, “Lucky Girl” puts viewers in a position to understand just how difficult and even devastating this bereft feeling is for the young girl at the center of the story. It ends on these emotions of mute emptiness and incompleteness, leaving both the audience and Esther in a discomfiting position. Many who have a significant part of their identity flattened, minimized or ignored experience a gnawing sense of inadequacy. They’re surrounded by a world that provides for all their needs but doesn’t see all of who they are. So they stand apart from it, never quite belonging and never quite feeling at home, with an essential part of themselves made voiceless and invisible.

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An adopted Chinese girl discovers a Chinese buffet isn’t not ‘real Chinese food’. | Lucky Girl

Lucky Girl by Sidi Wang


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What do you think?


  1. Thought I left this comment three times now I'll just need to keep posting it as this is a free world with free speech last time I checked. Oppressing peoples rights to free speech is abusing human rights violations.
    No object is holy or worthy of not being touched. This is worshipping of objects and Chinese are leading their kind to hell in America by even saying the cross in christianity is holy and can not be touched. God never said we are to carry a cross around or worship it and treat it as Holy this is false teaching.

  2. As a Guatemalan woman it was so hard growing up in a white neighborhood and family and trying to fit in with other kids all my time would be spent alone and crying because how out of place I felt but I’m at peace now I’m ok 🙂

  3. It’s not to say her parents don’t love her. It’s just that the whole celebration wasn’t done properly and a lot of time people adopt from other cultures without learning them first. I personally think the restaurant choice was inappropriate.

  4. Here in Alberta, Canada, The Chinese Community who built the railroad invented western chinese cuisine as we all know it. They are very proud of both the Chow Mein & Fried Rice restaurants & the Dim Sum Restaurants that cater mostly to Chinese folks.

    As an outsider, I would never dream of calling Dim Sum more "real" because Chinese people cooked it all just the same so it is authentic to me. ❤

  5. I had a Chinese friend who said that her grandmother owned a Chinese restaurant. My friend said that it was the dirtiest place on the planet. She further indicated that her grandmother saw no difference in chopping up roaches or rats into the food. 'til this day my friend refuses to eat Chinese food and has opened a raw, organic food restaurant. After this I stopped eating Chinese food as well.

    Another friend who works for the US Dept. Of Health said if she had her way she would close every Chinese restaurant in the country….very very dirty. Think about it!.

  6. This is so interesting… I love the juxtaposition of the Chinese girl who doesn't know who she is and the Chinese girl who doesn't know who she is either 😀

  7. I had a friend that was chinese, she wasnt an adoptee and I would go to her house. I was shocked when I found out they dont eat "chinese food." They even owned a restaurant, it came to a point that I would rather eat their homemade food than the restaurant chinese food. I find it really sad though that theres not really an option to eat food that's actual chinese at restaurants. Me living in a hispanic household I could go to a small mexican restaurant and find something that brought me back to my childhood, it's really sad I feel like.

  8. What rubbish the culture Is exactly why she’s been adopted because the culture dictates that sons are more important than daughters. Culture is what we’re taught it doesn’t mean who we are or what we actually want in life don’t let it stop you from being who you are thinking what you think and being what you want to be.

  9. As a Christian white woman who hopes one day to adopt a Chinese girl, this video terrifies me. The family is perceived as weird and insensitive to her feelings. When in reality they wanted her and loved her and are doing their best. Yes the little girl might feel a little displaced but rather than demonizing the family the video should concentrate on the love they’re trying to give the little girl. I’ve always wanted to adopt but I’ve always been scared that once I do what will it be like for her? Will she feel confident and comfortable? Sometimes no matter what you do adoptive children can feel out of place. But I raised my nieces as my own and I love them as my own so I know I will love her as my own. This kind of video doesn’t fairly show adoption and I think it can do damage to people that are thinking of adopting. Adoption is a wonderful and beautiful gift for both parties.

  10. Proud to be Asian Christian! Thanks for this video Omeleto!! It shows how different Asian culture is in the West rather than the once in Asia!

  11. This short film depicts sense of self for a person living amongst a different culture and/or race perfectly. Loved it 😊

  12. OK, I'm going to toss in a terribly rude and uncomfortable, culturally sensitive comment her: To me, the real "elephant in the room" is that it seems most Chinese children adopted by "white" American parents are girls. Is that observation ever going to be addressed in an Omeleto short or is that just not woke?

  13. Outstanding that there are loving families in the world doing their best to respect the native cultures of their adopted children. Obviously the girl can learn about her Chinese heritage while being a true American! Did you notice the actress girl has an Italian last name?

  14. I hate the term "gotcha day". She's not an animal that had to be caught. Why not just call it "Adoption day"?

  15. I feel like I just watched my childhood. Adoptee from India to Caucasian family, raised American. It took me along time to accept my Indian culture but no matter how much I try to learn, I always feel like an outsider to both cultures. Adoption is something I don't let myself think about or get lost in but when I do, I see how crazy and complex it really is. Soo soo grateful but still always feel lost.