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BROKEN TRAIL OF
"HUNDRED MEN WIVES"
Interview with Various Broken Trail's Cast Members


LASTING IMPRESSIONS
US ASIANS: Which scene(s) were the most poignant and most revealing?

VALERIE TIAN: There's a scene in part one of 'Broken Trail', where for a brief moment, the Chinese girls get to escape from their fears by looking upat the moon.In Chinese culture, the moon has long been associated with home and family reunion. These girls feel they only have one other now because they are the only things unforeign to each other. They just want to go back to familiarity.

JADYN WONG: The reality of the conditions the girls had to endure really hit me in the scene when we were riding into town with Tom and Heck, who had hopes of leaving us at some sort of haven. I scanned the environment, the faces of the townspeople, and I could feel my body reacting then I just broke down. The foreign land, the disgust and hate for these girls - it was a realization. Yes, everything was manufactured with the set, costumes, actors, but I am portraying the lives of many girls during this time in history.
“This is something that actually happened to thousands of young Chinese girls, some who were as young as 12 and 13 being brought over here to be enslaved. These young girls, with a lifespan of maybe five years once they got to America, died in unmarked graves and nobody ever told their stories. That’s why I think this is such an important project for the Asian American community because this is something that really happened to so many girls. And it’s an issue that was kind of swept under the rug, not really talked about and not really brought to life until a project like this.” (Olivia Cheng)

GWENDOLINE YEO: When Robert Duvall is numbering us in that wagon scene--I am trying to protect these young girls and I think he's coming to harm us--how poignant, the relief and comfort I felt that he was not going to hurt us, but simply identifying us - the relief and comfort of being a number. When we shot that scene--Duvall and I shared an incredible moment... me thinking one way that wasn't even written in the script...but I found that moment... Mr. Duvall saw what I was thinking and fed right into it so at the end of the scene, I was weeping. After we shot the scene, he came over and said "Beautiful work. Don't change a thing, Sun Foy." I went home that evening and wept. I felt such joy in having the experience to work with such a remarkable actor as he...someone who could see right to my heart and reveal his own right back.

The other scene would be the goodbye scene with Tom Harte... he had all the words; she listened. And a beautiful scene formed. We filmed it when it was snowing, and our noses were dripping and my toes were so cold... but I wouldn't have had it any other way. It was beautiful, vulnerable and the truth. It made me remember what acting is about--simply listen, and the rest will come.

OLIVIA CHENG: That’s a tough question to answer. I think that will vary for the audience. Hopefully they become emotionally attached to all of Broken Trail’s protagonists because then every scene will be poignant.

US ASIANS: Is there a picture/scene that accurately describes your impression of the project and/or your character’s role in the film? (If available, could you send us the picture to post within this interview)

VALERIE TIAN: There's a shot in the movie where Print, the oldest of the group, and Ging Wa, the youngest, ride a horse together down a steep hill in a grand, beautiful landscape. It's an unconventional image for a western; a hard-bitten cowboy taking care of a foreign child in a twist of dynamic fate. To me, this portrays how 'Broken Trail' is an unexpected kind of Western.
CAROLINE CHAN: One of the scenes that reflects the childlike curiosity of Mai Ling was when Tom Harte shot the horse.

GWENDOLINE YEO: In that goodbye scene I referenced--Sun Foy takes a private moment to herself...at the end of her journey, in western clothing, but with an eastern heart, has to decide between responsibility for others and go to San Francisco, or responsibility to herself and choose the man she loves (picture 2)

And picture 1:

"Int. Dark Room--Chinatown--San Francisco--1897--Day.

Sun Foy, 20s, sits on the wooden floor, her back against the wall, her form etched in shaft of light from a high window. Her upright bearing and stoic expression suggest that she refuses to be humiliated by these humiliating circumstances...

The on set photographer took this photo and my jaw dropped to the floor. From when I read the script --- through all the revisions-- the opening remained true to what I had envisioned in my mind, and it was brought to life by this photo.

COMMUNITY ISSUES
US ASIANS:
Considering your work in the community and being awarded the 2004 Lorayne Richardson Memorial Award from the Canadian Mental Health Association, what insights could you share on why many Chinese girls committed suicide?

OLIVIA CHENG: I think people need to ask themselves what they would do if their lives were reduced to daily beatings and emotional torture for the sole purpose of being conditioned for a life of sexual bondage. These girls were sold by their own families in China in order to survive crushing poverty. If the girls were lucky enough (or unlucky enough) to survive being caged in their own filth for the journey to America they were then sold like animals on the docks of San Francisco or in dingy underground rooms in Chinatown basements. These girls were stripped of their humanity in every possible way. The most attractive girls were sold as concubines and mistresses to wealthy Chinese merchants. They were the fortunate ones, relatively speaking. The next tier of girls ended up working in high end brothels while the majority of the unfortunate were shipped to Midwest mining camps or kept in San Francisco to work out of dirty little rooms called cribs. The women were beaten, starved and threatened into submission. If they didn’t meet a monetary quota every day or couldn’t perform their duties because of menstruation or pregnancy they received further physical and mental punishment. And remember, these women were exploited by their own people just as much as they were by members of the greater community. Can you imagine the damage that does to one’s soul?

CURRENT STATUS OF AA WOMEN SUICIDES
Asian-American women over 65 have the highest female suicide rate. Similarly, women from 15 to 24 also have the highest suicide rate across race and ethnicity. Asian-American girls in elementary school have the highest rate of depression across gender and race." Suicide is explained through acculturation, meaning that suicide is a result of the difficulty to adapt to American lifestyles. Eliza Noh, Assistant Professor of Asian American Studies at Cal State Fullerton - For more info, click HERE

You also made reference to my personal experience with depression. I was 23 when I was diagnosed with severe clinical depression yet I refused treatment for months because I couldn’t get past the stigma of being labeled mentally ill. At the time I was a hard news reporter for Global Television in Edmonton. It wasn’t until my coworkers found me passed out and frozen to the ground in our parking lot one winter morning that I finally got help. I was deeply ashamed to be fighting an illness in which I had no tangible evidence to show for it. It was literally all in my head and I was so overwhelmed at the idea of getting through another day. I was so tired of fighting what I didn’t understand and couldn’t see. I was extremely fortunate though because a lot of people around me refused to let me give up on myself. You really find out who your friends are when you’re on the verge of losing everything. I eventually wrote about the experience to educate other youth and the piece was picked up by newspapers across Canada which is what resulted in recognition from the Canadian Mental Health Society.

As hard as the depression was on me, and those around me, I know the experience is what helped me play Ye Fung in Broken Trail. In my first meeting with director Walter Hill he told me he could sense a deep sadness and sensitivity in me and asked me where it came from. I had a certain way of moving, and seeing the world when I was depressed. I don’t know how to describe it. Everything was slower and surreal. I always felt 3 steps behind everyone else and had a hard time focusing on anything in front of me. It was easy for me to remember that feeling for Ye Fung. By the time you meet her, she’s so traumatized by what’s happening that she’s always trying to hide. In finding her movements I remembered how I hid behind a dumpster at one point because I couldn’t stop crying and didn’t want anyone to see me. Strong emotions reduce you to a primal state. You don’t forget what it does to you.

To Continue the Interview, click HERE
Visit the below-listed links for additional information on the various subjects that were discussed during the interview
American Cast Bios "Bound Feet" (Valerie Tian) Background Resources Community Issues
Community Support Current State of AA Women Suicides Diversity Donaldina Cameron
Gwendoline Yeo's Music Views Historical Footnotes Insights Behind the Characters Introductions
Iris Chang Lasting Impressions Parting Thoughts Personal Backgrounds
Project's Beginnings Project's Historical Research Review of the Program Role Models
Telling the Chinese Immigrant Story Why Show Biz? Working on the Set Working with Robert Duvall

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