Posted by: Dr. Grover B. Proctor, Jr. | 17 June 2014

FilmWatch: A Thousand Years of Good Prayers

For those of you living in central North Carolina, I encourage you to attend the Cary Theater’s showing of director Wayne Wang’s award-winning 2007 film A Thousand Years of Good Prayers. I have not seen the film, and it is not rated — so I can’t warn you if there are any objectionable scenes or dialogue. But the critics, while not unanimous, were largely very favorable toward it. I have added a couple of excerpts from reviews below, and you can read the entirety of Roger Ebert’s thoughtful, sensitive review here. And by the way, if you can’t see the film at The Cary, you can still view it. Read on.

Yiyun Li and Wayne Wang

Yiyun Li and Wayne Wang

The film is an adaptation of a short story by celebrated author Yiyun Li, from a collection of stories by the same name, which won the Frank O’Connor International Short Story Award, PEN/Hemingway Award, Guardian First Book Award, and California Book Award for first fiction. Salman Rushdie was moved to write of her work, “The surface of Yiyun Li’s prose is deceptively still, but just beneath the surface is sadness, pain and tragedy. Her characters are portrayed with a harsh beauty, and one’s emotions become deeply engaged with their fates.”

Wayne Wang has directed such films as The Joy Luck Club, Chinese Box (starring Jeremy Irons and the incomparable Gong Li), Because of Winn-Dixie, and the exquisite Eat a Bowl of Tea. To cite Roger Ebert again, “I suppose you could say that Wayne Wang is our leading Chinese-American filmmaker, but I despise descriptions like that. He’s a fine filmmaker, no labels needed.”

The Cary Theater’s showings will be on July 10 at 7:00 and 9:30 pm and July 13 at 2:00 pm. If you cannot come to Cary to see it, A Thousand Years of Good Prayers is available on Netflix direct streaming.

A Thousand Years of Good Prayers

METACRITIC RATING: 64 (out of 100)

Genre:   Drama | Romance
Directed by:   Wayne Wang
Running Time:   83 minutes
Language:   English | Mandarin | Persian
Starring:   Henry O, Yu Feihong (Faye Yu), Vida Ghahremani
Rating:   Not rated in America

Family ties bind us together in visceral ways, but the forces of modern life often seem to drive parents and children apart. Elderly Mr. Shi, a widower and a retired scientist, has arrived from Beijing to spend time with his divorced daughter, Yilan. He hopes to help her sort out her life in this strange new country. Though his trip starts off as a mission to see his daughter remarry, he sparks to an Iranian woman who, despite their language barrier, captures his heart. (Magnolia Pictures)

88 (out of 100) Chicago Sun-Times Roger Ebert:
Mr. Shi (Henry O) gets off his flight in San Francisco and looks around for a daughter who should be waiting for him. Yilan (Faye Yu) is a little tardy. She has not seen her father in years, yet does not kiss him. She takes him home to her antiseptic condo. As they have dinner, silences threaten to overwhelm them. He is reluctant to pry too much. She is guarded…. In observing the reality of this relationship, Wang contemplates the “generation gap” in modern societies all over the world. His film quietly, carefully, movingly observes how these two people of the same blood will never be able to understand each other, and the younger one won’t even care to. And if you’re not near Cary, there’s a way for you to still see it. Read on.

80 (out of 100) Los Angeles Times Kevin Thomas:
Rich in revealing detail and apt in its use of everyday Spokane settings, A Thousand Years of Good Prayers shows that Wang remains a master explorer of the landscape of the human heart.


The Cary Theater

The Cary Theater
122 E. Chatham Street
Cary, NC

Built in 1946, The Cary Theater property was once home to the town’s first indoor movie theater, which hosted live performances as well as films. The site has since been used as a clothing store, auto parts store, and recording studio. Now the marquee lights up Downtown Cary with the mission of providing a unique, 175-seat venue for classic and independent films, music, and live performance including comedy and improv. The Cary Theater is a program of the Town of Cary’s Parks, Recreation & Cultural Resources Department. (Click photo or address above to see a Google Map of location.)

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