Friday, November 07, 2008

My Name Is Yu Ming

Yu Ming Is Ainm Dom (My Name is Yu Ming)
Directed by Daniel O’Hara, Ireland, 2003, 13 minutes

The short commences with a young Chinese man who seems obviously detached from the life he lives in his homeland of China. Yu Ming (which is the name of the young Chinese man as we find out later in the short) one day enters his local library; he decides to use the librarian’s globe as his instrument to escape his current life. He spins the globe and it lands in Ireland. Thus, Yu decides to investigate the country and even decides to learn Ireland’s mother tongue Gaelic.
As he is learning Gaelic the audience starts getting involved with the narrative by wishing that one was able to let him know that Ireland has become an English speaking country and Gaelic has become more of a dialect than anything else. Upon arriving in Ireland, Yu notices that the signs are written in Gaelic which as a viewer makes you take even more pity on Yu since he is going to believe that the language he learned is actually the one spoken.
In the scene when Yu tries to ask for a bed at a hostel the short’s narrative takes an interesting twist with regards as to how culture is viewed. This is because when the concierge does not understand Yu, he asks a co-worker to translate for him just because he looks Asian and automatically all Asian’s come from China. But as we find out the co-worker happens to be from Mongolia. Once they both figure out that Yu wants a bed, the narrative continues with Yu entering a bar in order to ask for work. Yu asks again in Gaelic that he is looking for work and the bar attendant replies that he does not understand Chinese. But while Yu is apologizing to the attendant for his Gaelic not being better since he has just arrived in Ireland, an elderly man sitting at the bar is struck with awe that Yu is speaking Gaelic fluently.
The old man takes pity on Yu and buys him a beer and explains to him that Ireland mostly speaks English because of the British and that Gaelic is only spoken in certain areas of the country. As the elderly man is explaining all this to Yu in Gaelic, the bar attendant is staring at them in amazement because he, like the concierge at the hostel, assumes that they are speaking Chinese. In the last scene of the film, a van is seen driving to the country side and reaches a bar. When the couple who are driving the van go into the establishment they have stopped in for a rest, the camera pans a little to the left and Yu appears as the bar attendant.
The film seems to suggest that Gaelic as a cultural aspect has been lost. However, it is with this lost aspect of Irish culture that Yu Ming is able to find himself. This can be seen in the short when he is smiling at the couple that has just walked in to the bar in which he works and speaks Gaelic. I would even dare to say that Yu has become the tourist attraction of the town. In this context I believe the director is trying to brutally show that cultural aspects like language have now become tourist attractions instead of being something of pride like it is for Yu Ming and the old man in the bar. The film also, seems to deal with cultural identity and how it is regarded by the majority of people (i.e. that all Asian’s are Chinese) and how it is regarded by an individual (i.e. when Yu does the famous lines of Robert DeNiro in Taxi Driver).
I believe this is an ironic film to place in the non-English category because the language that seems to be suggested to be out of place here is English. In other words, it’s as if the director is saying Ireland should be non-English or non-British.

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