MAYA LIN: A Strong Clear Vision

2/27/2011







I will admit it. I was bored at the beginning. I did not see the significance of the film immediately and thought that it was only a plain film about a Chinese-American who went and conquered the United States with her designs in architecture. I thought that it was just another art /success story of a student and it did not really matter politically or in any other way. But I was wrong. Right after that soldier delivered his disdain and complaints against the committee in charge of the memorial, I saw the story in a whole different light. It became another arena where actors compete with one another to get their own interest more advantaged or prioritized than the others. It was real politik in play and one could not help but be surprised at how politics seems to appear at the most unlikely places when we least expect it to.

What is interesting about the documentary is that it was able to depict what usually happens in the real world. It makes the viewers realize how political things can get just because of conflicting interests of the actors involved in the picture. We can see how a simple creation of a Vietnam War Memorial can gain such clamor and public attention, strong enough to reach the Senate of the United States. We can also see how the protagonist tried as much as possible to still advance her interest despite the many oppositions and criticisms she got from veteran soldiers and media alike. Maya Lin’s strong desire to translate emotions into beautiful works of art worked its way to the top, making the powers that be listen to her and eventually keeping the original design she submitted in the competition.

The only problem with this film --like in almost all documentaries--is that the extent to which it can be considered as narrating reality remains questionable. As we all know, documentaries will always be at the mercy of the editors. What will be shown and what will not be shown depends on what the editors think is relevant to make the story coherent. For example, the story was shown in such a manner that the opposing party in the Vietnam Memorial will look like people who want to stop the design either just for the sake of it or because they could not bear the thought that an Asian is going to design the memorial. Like any other media, the film can be cut and edited depending on how the director wants to portray Maya Lin – a strong woman who rose against her adversaries or a victim of racism and sexual discrimination.

The latter part of the film, however, focused on Maya Lin’s integrity and dedication to deliver people the “best work of art” she could design. These events were information supporting the main theme of the documentary which is Maya Lin’s strong hold of her principles combined with her brilliance in the field of architecture. I can definitely say that the film, albeit the doubt of the degree of truthfulness and consistency with reality, was able to establish the message it wanted to disseminate. It was an inspiration for everyone to stand their ground no matter how difficult and ugly it may become at the end of the day, what would really matter is how you hard you fought to keep your integrity intact.


H.P.

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