Directors’ Statement

Mother Nature is awe-inspiring in her ability to throw ecosystems and lives out of balance – without warning – in a matter of seconds.

While traveling through Southwestern China with my family, a year after the disastrous 2008 earthquake, our tour guide commented on how entire buses of tourists vanished during the quake, swallowed by crevices formed in mountainsides. Unnerving. Especially as we were driving up the same mountains during his commentary!

As a teenager on a family vacation, the last thing you want to think about is the fragility of life. One moment, you’re sightseeing.  The next, Mother Nature swallows you up – leaving no trace of your existence.

As we drove up the steep mountainsides that day, I couldn’t help but wonder: What if those tourists in 2008 had slept in and missed their bus?

What if their fate came down to a matter of seconds?

And more dramatically (because, hello, teenage angst):

What is the point of building a life… if it could all come crashing down at any moment?

After much reflection, I concluded that there is a point. There has to be.

That point is something the main character of this film, Dawn, must relearn, as past familial traumas have numbed her to life’s joys, even without her realizing it. Throughout, loneliness and abandonment weigh on Dawn, as she struggles to survive – not just her physical predicament – but also her emotional prison. Something she must acknowledge is partially of her own making.

In the age of shifting familial values, the bonds of family that we once took for granted, are now fragile. And for Dawn, this nomadic, thrill-seeking Canadian teacher, the notion of “home” is elusive, as she fights against the idea of permanence and lasting relationships.

But in the end, Dawn learns that freedom can come in the form of friendship, compassion, and forgiveness. However, there can be no forgiveness without honesty and grief. For Dawn, that is perhaps the hardest mountain to climb… if not impossible to survive.

While this story could be set anywhere in the world – from San Francisco to Chile to Vancouver – it was important to us, as filmmakers and storytellers, to stay true to the inspiration for the film, but also, to create strong and substantial roles for Asian Canadian talent. Representation is more than a trend to us; it’s reality.

Dawn, as a Chinese-Canadian, who doesn’t speak Mandarin or Cantonese, is a deliberate choice. For visible-minority youth, like Dawn, raised and educated in North America, while their parents were born in other parts of the world, this generational gap often leads to a clash in ideologies, familial rifts, and fuels an internal struggle with which most visible-minority youth can identify. As a counterpoint to this, the insightful character of Noah, born and raised in China, is a deliberate choice with his Mandarin accent, but otherwise, decent comprehension of the English language – one that we hope dispels the idea of the stereotypical Chinese accent and caricature.

Above all, we aim to tell an universal story of grief and hope that transcends cultural differences.

~ Stephanie Law & Jessica Wu, Co-Directors