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ON FAITH & MEDIA View Comments

Snow Flower and the Secret Fan

By
Sr. Rose Pacatte, F.S.P.
Source: AmericanCatholic.org

This is a beautiful motion picture about Chinese women from director Wayne Wang who also brought us “The Joy Luck Club” in 1993.  Whereas “The Joy Luck Club” was based on the best-selling novel by Amy Tan about mother-daughter relationships and the tensions between Chinese and American culture, “Snow Flower and the Secret Fan”, also based on a best-selling novel by Lisa See, is about life-long friendship between women contrasted with early 19th century Chinese culture and contemporary Chinese culture in Hong Kong and Singapore.

Students of culture know that it is created by the bonds of communication and sustained by the values emphasized in that communication. While being female in China is still not valued as are males, even under a Communist government that preaches equality, two hundred years ago, women could have the final word if they had a girl friend, a soul mate. This tradition is called “laotung” and often girl friends were brought together by a kind of matchmaker, transcending even social class, in a commitment that was seldom broken.

This friendship was nourished by communication via a secret language, Nüshu, written on fans.  According to anthropologists, this is the only language in the history of the world to be developed by and for women.

Snow Flower and Lily’s friendship survived war, misunderstanding, and an unhappy, isolated marriage for one, and a poor, rough, though loving marriage by the other. It was broken once, but in death, healed and made beautiful again.
 
Nina and Sophia are also friends from childhood, where Nina teaches Sophia, who is from Korea, how to speak Mandarin.  They remain close even through the challenges best them from differences in social class, family, and education.
 
This is a film about tradition, the emotional connections created through life-long friendships, loyalty, sacrifices, and sisterly love. I think the theme of language and communication frames the story and creates layers of meaning that cinephiles will enjoy discussing.

Nina /Lily are played by Bingbing Li and  Snow Flower/Sophia are played by Gianna Jun.


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Maria Bertilla Boscardin: If anyone knew rejection, ridicule and disappointment, it was today’s saint. But such trials only brought Maria Bertilla Boscardin closer to God and more determined to serve him. 
<p>Born in Italy in 1888, the young girl lived in fear of her father, a violent man prone to jealousy and drunkenness. Her schooling was limited so that she could spend more time helping at home and working in the fields. She showed few talents and was often the butt of jokes. </p><p>In 1904 she joined the Sisters of St. Dorothy and was assigned to work in the kitchen, bakery and laundry. After some time Maria received nurses’ training and began working in a hospital with children suffering from diphtheria. There the young nun seemed to find her true vocation: nursing very ill and disturbed children. Later, when the hospital was taken over by the military in World War I, Sister Maria Bertilla fearlessly cared for patients amidst the threat of constant air raids and bombings. </p><p>She died in 1922 after suffering for many years from a painful tumor. Some of the patients she had nursed many years before were present at her canonization in 1961.</p> American Catholic Blog We need to take up our crosses, but we also need to be gentle with them and with ourselves. If we sit holding our own crosses too tightly we will not be able to put our arms around anyone else, nor will they be able to put their arms around us. That includes God.


 
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