Maineland (2017) - full transcript

Stella and Harry are affluent, cosmopolitan teenagers who are part of the enormous wave of "parachute students" from Mainland China enrolling in U.S. private schools. Shot over three years in China and the U.S., MAINELAND tells a multi-layered coming-of-age tale, following this buoyant, fun-loving girl and introspective boy as they settle into a boarding school in blue-collar small-town rural Maine. They come seeking a Western-style education, escape from the dreaded Chinese college entrance exam, and the promise of a Hollywood-style U.S. high school experience. But as their fuzzy visions of the American dream slowly gain more clarity, their relationship to home takes on a surprising new aspect.

(peaceful music)

- [Stella] The first time I
learned about America was when I

met a cute little American
boy in kindergarten.

It was my first
impression of America,

and I thought all the
boys in America were cute.

However, the first time I
fell in love with America

was in middle school, when
I watched a famous movie

called High School Musical.

The movie described daily life
in an American high school.

It showed how American
students study, play, and date.

Since then I started dream
about studying in America.

Then I look at a
newspaper that said,

go to America for
senior high school.

(moody electronic music)

- [Man] I have a strong desire

to be a member of your school.

- [Woman] I must go
to America to study.

- [Woman] Very excited for
a whole new life for me.

- [Chris] In the late
90s and the early 2000s,

there really started to
be a decline in applicants

for American boarding schools.

That's when schools
really discovered

the international market.

What had just been a nice
thing to have some diversity

now became essential
for viability.

At that time, the
largest population

was the Japanese students.

That quickly shifted
to the Korean students.

After 2006 when the
floodgates opened from China,

and especially after 2008,
when the economy turned,

China quickly became the largest
population of international

students and that shows
no sign of stopping.

- [Man] It's 1,759.

This is your schedule.

- We were founded in 1792,
which makes us the eighth oldest

private school in
the United States.

We are a co-ed day
and boarding school,

we have about 650
students total.

And most of our students
are day students, about 500,

come from all the towns around.

And our goal is to have about
12 or 15 Chinese students

for each grade.

- [Chris] What are you most
excited about when you think

about coming to America,
to boarding school?

- Chinese school always
has a lot of homework.

- I want give me some free time.

- Chinese education
is exam-oriented.

We have a lot of homework.

A lot of, a lot of,
a lot of, a lot of.

- [Harry] There is a teaching
style like critical thinking?

We can talk about our
different opinions?

- Yeah, in the U.S. the
idea is that the students

should begin to
think for themselves.

What do you like to do for
fun, on the weekends, to relax?

- I'm good at basketball.

- [Student] This is my ship
models, this is a small one.

- [Chris] Do you like math
and science, like arts?

- I like math.

- Americans are terrible
at math. (laughs)

It's okay, it's alright,
we're fat and lazy.

We're not ashamed to admit it.

* Just gotta stand
there and heard me cry *

* It's alright because
I love the way you lie *

* Love the way you
lie (giggles) *

- [Chris] Tell me about
your future goals.

What are some of
your future goals?

- Teacher?
- Really?

What kind of teacher?

- Math teacher.
- Math teacher?

- Yes, it's interesting.

- Yeah.

- My father is a businessman.

I want to study business
to be his good assistant.

Yeah, but I also
want to be an artist.

- I'm, uh, learning
music composition.

I want to join the band.

- [Chris] What do
your parents think?

- My father is a very, a
man, a very kind man, I mean.

When he was 18, my grandparent
gave my father 1,000 pounds,

let my father went to
England by himself.

- Wow.
- Yeah.

My father didn't use that
1,000 pounds, he worked,

and earned money for his study,
until he came back to China.

- [Chris] So what happened
to the 1,000 pounds?

- He gave it back
to my grandparents.

- Oh, when he comes back home?
- Yes.

- I'm the member of Mifan Mama.

A charity organization
which helps Chinese orphans.

My father donate 100,000
Yuan for each year.

They are so happy and they
all hug me and kiss me.

"Oh, sister, sister," like that.

- [Chris] Wow, okay,
that's good, yeah.

- [Stella] (chuckles)
Why, oh, it's so sad?

- No, that's okay.
- Okay, hi.

Hi, hi.
- Sad is part of life.

We can't always be happy.

What am I looking
for, family name what?

- [Woman] H-E.

- H?
- Yes.

- [Chris] Oh, there's Harry.

Harry was young,
naive, and quirky.

He had that curious mind.

- [Woman] I think that
Stella's gonna be more of like

a leader or organizer
addition to the community.

You probably got
the same impression.

- Stella came in like
a whirlwind, I had
zero expectations,

and she came in and, yeah,
like a house on fire.

- When I first read his
application, I was put off.

He is the son of successful
bankers, he expects to make

his first bucket of gold
as soon as he's old enough.

- [Chris] Did he use
"bucket of gold?"

- He actually used
"bucket of gold," yeah.

But he didn't come across this
way in the interview at all,

in fact, he said that
while his parents want him

to go into economics,
he would prefer to be

an archaeologist
and study dinosaurs.

- [Woman] They think they're
giving us what we want to hear,

and clearly they
don't understand that
what we want to know,

is how they actually
think. (laughs)

- [Chris] Something
closer to the truth.

- Something
resembling the truth.

They think we wanna
hear that they're all,

the kids are so driven and
they wanna be economists,

but obviously
that's not the case.

- You wanna go on?
- Enthusiastic and likable.

Traveled quite a bit,
liked Japan the most.

Likes American pop music,
Green Day and Eminem.

He plays the trumpet.

He plays in the
school drum corps.

His sister is in
school in Toronto,

studying international

(lively music)


Profligate. (laughs)

(peaceful pop music)

(bright chime music)

(moody electronic music)

(upbeat piano music)

- Hello!

Today is a very
special day for me.

I'm so happy to receive
the offer from Fryeburg.

It's my ideal school,
my dream comes true.

I will not let you down,
just believe in me.

Now I'm so excited
for everything.

I expect my new school
life, new friends,

new class, I'm
coming, see you soon!

(moody pop music)

(peaceful guitar music)

- My name is Adele, I'm
from South Portland, Maine.

- Hey, I'm Julia,
and I'm from China.

- Hello, my name is Qiao.

- Hi, I'm Jessie.

- I'm Kat, I live in
Chase, I'm from Boston.

- I'm Sara, I'm from Spain.

- Hi, I'm Stella!

Nice to meet you!

I'm junior and I'm in Frye Hall.

- [Woman] Good morning,
and who are you?

- I'm, my last name is
Za-hu, Zee-hu, sorry.

- Z-H-U?
- Z-H-U.

- What country are you from?
- China.

- I'm going to need to
order you health insurance,

unless you have
something different.

Okay, give you that back.

I don't want your I-20,
this is the form I wanted.

It's the most important paper
you'll give anybody today.

You get run over by a car,
nobody's gonna help you,

until I have that,
(laughs) it's America.

- [Harry's Father] One thing
I worry about is that I hope

he will not lost the confidence.

- We always remind the students
too that, to find the things

that they're good at, you know?

The students will
learn from success,

but they'll also
learn from failure.

- What is, seriously?
(student laughs)

(students speak Chinese)

(bluesy guitar music)

- [Student] Woo, I got a hit.

- And you are?
- Bianca.

- And where you from?
- China.

- Henry, where you from?
- Harry.

- Harry, I'll get you right,
Harry, where you from?

- China.
- Danielle, where you from?

- Fryeburg.

- I'm part Italian, part
Columbian and part Venezuelan.

- [Teacher] And you're
the only Jamaican here?

- Yeah.
- What city?

- In the center of
China, you don't know.

(students laugh)

- [Teacher] I don't,
that's why I ask questions.

And how was your summer?

- Just hung around,
nothing really.

- Worked, over at
the Oxford House.

- Was that a good job?
- Uh, yeah, keeps you busy.

- Travel and lose
fat. (chuckles)

I lost 20 pounds
during the summer.

- Study.
- Did you study all day?

- Well, six day a week.

- So did you study all summer?
- No, of course not.

(students laugh)

- Day care.
- Was it a good job?

- Yes.
(students giggle)

- [Teacher] So, tell everybody
the population of your city.

- Around eight million?

- Okay.
- What?

- The entire state of Maine
is one million, so his city,

which is near Shanghai,
has eight million.

- [Student] That's New York,
the biggest city in our country

is not even the
biggest city in China.

- [Teacher] While you're here,

you're doing something
that's very brave.

You are taking a big risk
to go to another place.

To meet all new people,
it's kind of a scary thing.

Okay, so you all have
a piece of paper.

So I want you to think
for a minute about

what are your goals?

Three things you
wanna do this year.

- Wait, just the new kids?
- Everyone can do it.

(background chatter)

- [Teacher] That was not rude.

Believe me, Stella, that's fine.

It's cool that you
asked about your grade.

That means that you care,
I gave you an A minus,

but I'm sure you'll
get an A for the class,

like I hardly spend any time
on grades 'cause it's so early

and I didn't really look and
I know you're doing well.

So you probably do deserve an A.

And I think you will get an A.

Those grades that got put out,

they don't go on your
permanent record.

- Okay.
- Okay?

- Thanks.
- Yes.

The worst part of my
job is doing grades.

It's like, doesn't match at
all with what I wanna do here,

is just like make art
with kids. (chuckles)

- In the story of the Outsiders,

there are two distinct groups,
the socs, and the greasers.

The socs are the rich
kids with the cars.

They have the nice clothes.

Greasers don't do
very well in school.

Their clothes are different.

They're not necessarily
bad, but different.

Talk to me about
their home life.

Is it like your home life, May?

- [May] I have a happy family.

My mom and dad always around me.

- [Teacher] You
have a happy family.

Your mom and dad are
always around you.

- Yeah and they care about me.
- And they care about you.

Everybody else agree?

- For some strange reason
my parents are still alive,

and my siblings are
smaller than me.

- [Teacher] For some
strange reason your parents

are still alive, should
they be dead already?

- No, I didn't say that.

I just said for some strange
reason they're alive.

- [Teacher] Okay?

So, okay, so, you can
relate a little bit,

except what's the difference?

Your parents are
still there, yeah?

Remember the other day,
when we were talking about

judging people by how they look?

What do you notice
about their hair?

Before the end of the book,
I think you will choose

who you would rather
hang out with.

Socs or Greasers?


- I don't know.
(students laugh)

- [Teacher] Just tell me,
who do you think maybe?

Socs or greasers?
- Maybe socs.

- Socs.
- The same.

- Socs.
- Pday.

- I don't know,
probably the socs.

- Socs.
- Greasers of course greasers.

- Socs.
- Socs.

- Socs.
- Socs.

- Greasers.
- Socs.

- [Teacher] Socs.

I don't know, I'm thinking
you're not speaking English.

- It just bad pronunciation.

(Bianca laughs)

- [Teacher] Come on,
you know the rules.

(students speaks in Chinese)

(student speaks Chinese)
(Harry laughs)

(horn music)

- So, gentlemen, put that bit
up, put that bit in the index.

Three quarters of an inch is
the thickness of your stock.

What is half of three quarters?

Talked about this, you double
the denominator, right?

Three eighths, right, Harry?

- I don't know. (chuckles)

- [Teacher] You're
gonna hold it like this,

with your hand over the groove,

and work it through
the cutter bit.

(saw buzzes)

- [Teacher] Okay, ready?

Five, six, seven, eight.

Okay, do it again.

Have you fronted a lift before?

- No, the first time.
- Okay.

- [Stella] This is the first
time I've gone to cheerleading.

- The lift, okay.

Don't look at the ground, don't
focus on what they're doing.

Just just focus on what
you're gonna do, okay?

- Five, six, seven, eight.

One, two.
- Stick it, stick it!

Good, there you go, cradle!

Five, six, seven, eight.

(students laughs)

- [Teacher] Almost a fourth of
the season, guys, it's done.

(students chatter)

Alright, guys, gets
the balls together.

Guys, Harry's in as striker.

Ben, run, that's you!

- Shawn, take it out!


- On this grass, man.
- That's alright.

- [Teacher] That's classy, Josh.

(hip-hop music)

* Shorty had them
Apple Bottom Jeans *

* Boots with the fur

* The whole club
was lookin' at her *

* She hit the floor,
next thing you know *

* Shorty got low, low, low,
low, low, low, low, low *

* Them baggy sweat pants and
the Reebok's with the straps *

(peaceful guitar music)

(students laugh)

- [Teacher] Why did Colonel
Shaw's men have to set fire

to the town?

- His superior officer
told him to do it.

- [Teacher] Okay, superior
officer told him to do it.

Colonel Shaw is a colonel,
the other guy is a colonel!

So why is one
colonel able to give

an order to another colonel?

He's been a colonel longer.

So, sort of like,
um, Korean, right?

What's the deal with
Korean students here?

Korean students, do you
have a hierarchy still?

Is there a one head Korean?

Is there a head Korean here
at the Academy anymore?

A boss Korean?
- Um, I don't think so.

- [Teacher] You don't think so
or you're not gonna tell me?

- I think before there were.
- Okay, before there was.

There used to be.
- Yeah.

- [Teacher] And the deal
with that is, if you're born

like three minutes before
me, guess who's in charge?

We used to have a lot
of Japanese students.

They took respect
very seriously.

Those were the bad old days.

I don't think it's like
that anymore, right?

If Kenta doesn't bow
to you, are you gonna

go out in the woods
and break his arm?

Cute little Kenta, no,
right, of course not.

You're gonna say "Hai"
and he's gonna say "Hai"

and everything will
be good, right?

- This is the first
year that I've had a lot

of Asian students in my class.

A lot of Asian students really
didn't take many art classes,

certainly not a
filmmaking class.

So, you're making a documentary.

What's the perceptions
of Asians and Europeans?

Is that what you are
setting out to achieve?

- [Students] Yeah.

- So, what are you
finding out so far?

- Respectful.

- Intellectual.

- Smart.
- Shy.

- In general, I would say
that the Asian students

stay friends mainly
with the Asian students.

- I have seen a few
Asians with Americans,

but it's more they feel more
comfortable with themselves.

- [Student] But, you know,
everyone goes into the woods

to smoke anyway, so.

- [Student] Everyone, they're
all usually working really,

really hard, I think that's
the biggest difference, but,

you know, everyone goes into
the woods to smoke anyway, so.

- [Student] Felt really bad
actually, I felt really bad

for them because I knew if
I went to a foreign school,

I'd be terrified.

- [Teacher] Is any of this true?

- Yeah.
- Yeah.

- [Teacher] Which is true,
are you hard-working?

- Kinda.

- [Teacher] Just you or
all Asians? (chuckles)

- I think--
- Most of, most.

- I think all of them are true.

But that's not what
we are trying to get.

- [Teacher] What're you
trying to get at, okay?

So, this is the answers
you've gotten so far.

So, what're you trying to get?

- The thing they talk to us
about, from their personal mind.

- So, you think that what
they're saying is not personal?

- Maybe they think like, Asian
is too, it's kind of strange,

and when they talk to you,
they don't look at your eyes.

- Why is that?
- 'Cause we are nervous.

- Back in China, everybody
takes the same class,

and everybody is
doing the same test,

so people cannot figure
out what they really like

or who they really are.

- Everyone is the same, yeah.
- Which is stupid.

- If I live in a little town,
I live in Fryeburg Maine,

I've never seen Asians
except, you know, in Fryeburg.

You come to school here, and
they all talk to each other.

- Even if a Chinese and a
Korean sit next together,

they won't talk to each other.

They would like to talk with
others in their own language.

- We're afraid.

- [Teacher] Of what?

- Making mistake?

- [Teacher] Making mistake?

I'm glad you're in my class,
'cause you've taught me a lot.

- Study hall, guys, let's open
your doors, prop 'em open!


There you go, here's your pass.

- Thanks, thank you.
- You're welcome.

You guys need to get your shoes
out of the hallway, please.

Study hall, let's go, guys!

Guys, let's open up!

You must have work to do.

I'm not sure who I've seen

and who I haven't
seen at this point.

But for some reason, I can't
keep you guys straight.

I can always keep
Johnny straight.

- Why? (laughs)

Why they?

- [Teacher] Why can I not keep
you straight, I don't know.

It's a mental block, you know?

If you ever called me
something besides Miss Gibson,

it's just a mental block.

Actually, I really shouldn't
mix you up anymore.

(bright piano music)

- When the Egyptian
revolution happened,

they used this same symbol.

Does that have meaning
for you in China?

If somebody did this, what
would you think it means?

- On the bus.
- On the bus! (laughs)

Riding the bus. (laughs)

That's great.

- [Student] Maybe
it means unite.

- Maybe it means uniting
together, okay, right, yeah.

In America, I think it has
a kind of angry feeling

to do this.

If there's a lot of
people doing it, yeah,

it has that kind of power.

- [Teacher] Gandhi used the
system of get the news out

and share it with the world
and people will change.

I'm especially looking for
stories of nonviolent actions

people did there.

- Tank Man?
- Yeah.

- [Teacher] What do you
think we should tell

about this story?

What did he do, what
was the response?

- [Reporter] Heading down the
road was a hazardous business.

- [Teacher] You think he
did it as a news stunt.

So, he told somebody,
"Okay, film me.

"I'm gonna go down
and stop the tanks."

- Yeah.
- Interesting.

- [Reporter] Casualties
were arriving every--

- [Teacher] Do we know
who those people are?

- Students, maybe?
- Yeah.

- [Reporter] The operating
theater was overflowing.

Many of the staff in tears.

- [Teacher] You know what
non-violent actions they did?

- You mean the students?
- Sure.

- Okay, a hunger strike,
why would they do that?

- And did it stop
the government?

Did they get what
they wanted changed?

- No.

- Uh-huh, so maybe one result
was something they expected,

they wanted, they got
people to join them,

but another result
was unexpected.

(bell rings)

(moody piano music)

- Stella.
- Strong, strong.

- Cheerleader.
- Cheerleader.

- Good job.
- Good job.

- That's good.
- Good job.

- [Cheerleaders] We love,
we love our football team.

L-O-V-E, we love, we
love our football team.

A-T-T-A-C-K, The
Raiders are back.

A-T-T-A-C-K, attack,
attack, attack!

Go, go, bang, bang,
win, win, bang, bang.

Go, bang, win,
bang, go, bang, win!

(spectators applaud)

Hustle, hustle, score,
score, we want more!

Hustle, hustle, score,
score, we want more!

Five, six, seven, eight.

- Here we go, Raiders!
- Come on, Raiders!

(spectators applaud)

(distant bell tolls)

(riders scream)

(moody music)
(riders scream)

* Ever had a dream

* Of watermelon wine

* Yeah

- I'm dying.

* Ain't but three things

* In this world

* That's worth one
solitary doubt *

* And that's old
dogs and children *

* And watermelon wine

* A little story that goes
along, but it's a true story *

* He said, women, they
think about they-selves *

* When their menfolk
ain't around *

* And friends are hard to find

* When they discover
that you're down *

* He said, I tried it all

* When I was in
my natural prime *

* Now it's old
dogs and children *

* And watermelon wine

(public announcement
in foreign language)

- Mommy!

(moody piano music)

(moody guitar music)

(moody guitar music)

- [Student] Oh my god,
hi, I love your new hair!

- Are you cheering this year?
- No.

- Oh, how come?
- I don't know.

I've got too much college stuff.

- Too much college stuff?
- Yeah.

- Okay, so, have you thought

more about the
schools on your list?

- [Stella] Yeah.

- Are you looking for
teacher certification?

(Stella chuckles)

No, now?
- I don't know.

- That's a shift for you, okay?

You're interested in business,

and that's what you told
your parents, correct?

- Yeah. (laughs)
- Right?

But I also know that
you want to teach.

And you wanna teach little
people, young people, right?

- [Stella] They think I can
get double majors, you know?

But they're not okay if I just
learn education, to teach.

- [Teacher] Okay and so for
you, is that a conflict for you?

- My parents pay a lot for me
to come to America, and if I

just teach, I don't think I can
get the money back for them.

And I need, get something
for them, you know?

I don't want just come to
America and just learn the same

thing in China, be a teacher.

It's, um, it's my dream,
but it's too common.

- [Teacher] So for you, you
have this understanding,

that you will be needing to
take care of your parents?

- Mm-hm.

- And you can better do
that, not as a teacher,

but in the world of business.

- Yeah.
- That's interesting.

So, can you do both?

Can you marry both things?

- Yeah, I was
thinking about, like,

I wanna be a businessman,

and when I get older,
maybe I will own a school.

Kindergarten or something,
when I'm getting old.

- Right.

Okay, so while we're here then,

can you open up your
Penn State application?

So, okay, well, are your
parents married and together?

- No, they're not.
- They're not, okay.

So, who is your guardian?

- My mom.
- Okay.

That's been submitted
and payment's submitted,

you've successfully
submitted your common app

to Michigan State University.

(moody guitar and piano music)

- (chuckles) My topic
is Maine blueberry.

Maine actually the origin
of the blueberry plant.

Here I have example
like Rolex in the watch.

When you have this watch,

it means you are a
successful person.

Just like those famous
thing in watch and cars.

I want blueberry become
a star in the fruits.

(students laugh)

Yeah, how many of you
ate blueberries before?

Okay, almost everyone.

How many of you
know it is healthy?

Everyone again.

How many of you eat it
at least once a week?

See, there is only two.
(students laugh)

And how many of you are willing
to eat it more than now?

Yes, so this is the
opportunity we have.

- Are there many opportunities

to eat blueberries
right now in China?

- There are blueberries
in the supermarket,

but it's very expensive,
so I think that's a--

- So, it's a big market.
- Yeah, it's a big market.

(students applaud)

- [Teachers] Read the schools.

Tell me the schools
that you just added.

- [Harry] Boston University,
Ohio State University.

- [Teacher] ow you have
Susquehanna on there.

How did you end up with
that one on your list?

- [Harry] I heard that
some small college

might have a better
elber arts education?

- [Teacher] Liberal arts, mm-hm.

What do you like to study?
- I put three.

- [Teacher] Business,
music, and philosophy, why?

- Well, it's my interest.

- Mm-hm, and when did you
become interested in philosophy?

- Oh, before I came out.

- Before you came to Fryeburg?
- Mm-hm.

- And music,
studying performance?

- Maybe composing.

- Oh.

- Yeah.
- Okay.

- Do you want to hear my idea
for the supplemental essay?

- [Teacher] Sure,
yeah, for which school?

- Wheaton and Boston college.
- Yeah.

(somber piano music)

(lively chatter in Chinese)

- [Chris] In 2015,
for us at Fryeburg,

over half of the international
students are Chinese.

No school's perfect,
no education system
is perfect, but,

most of them really appreciate
that significant change.

A whole way of thinking
opens up for that student.

That's a powerful thing.

- Who's your date?
- Nicola.

- Shoot, she's almost
as tall as me now.

- Yeah, look at my heels.

- Woo!
- Whoa, look at those heels!

Are you gonna be able
to dance in those?

Where's everybody else?

(soulful piano and guitar music)

(lively dance music)

* Turn down for what

* Turn down for what

* Talk dirty to me

* Talk dirty to me

* Talk dirty to me

(somber atmospheric music)

- Will you join me, and let's
ask for the Lord's blessing,

on this event.

O gracious heavenly father,

we thank you for this
day that you have made.

We thank you for the time given,

to each of these students
here at Fryeburg Academy,

and we ask for your continued
blessing on this great school.

We thank you for
teachers, mentors,
counselors, and friends.

Encourage their hearts, to
know the hope of your calling

and fill them with your peace.

It is in Jesus' name
that I pray, Amen.

* Our flag was still there

* O say does that
star-spangled *

* Banner yet wave

* O'er the land of the free

* And the home of the brave

(students cheer and applaud)

(students applaud)

(students applaud and cheer)

* From sea to shining sea

* America

* America

* America

- [Student] Everyone's
starting to spread out.

Hearing everyone, it's sad.

- [Harry] That's what happen!

- He was a good student,
he was a good student.

Okay, good luck,
keep in touch, okay?

- See ya, man.
- What am I gonna do?

I'm not gonna have my
band partner anymore.

- There will be others.

- Yeah but then I'll have
to be partners with Brooke.

You'll have to come
back, you can't graduate.

That's the only solution,
you have to come back.

- There will be new students
coming, remember that?

- No, no, no, no.
- Oh, okay.

- Harry's coming back.

- Okay, I will come back
and see you next year.

- Come back in the
fall, good luck.

- Yeah, you too.

- I'll miss you.
- Me too.

(both laugh)

(bittersweet music)

(firework pops)

(bluesy music)

(moody music)