Watch The New Yorker Documentary | A Daughter Searches for Answers in Her Mother’s Mysterious Past | The New Yorker Video | CNE | Newyorker.com

[film roll rattles]

[phone beeping]

[Daughter] Yeah, I have a spider plant in my apartment,

like in the corner.

It’s growing really fast

and there’s a baby spider plant coming out of it,

but what do I do with it?

When do you know when to separate the baby?

[mother speaks in foreign language]

[gentle music]

[phone ringing]

[button clicks]

[Daughter] I think I want to understand a little bit more

about what your life was like when you were younger,

before you met Apa.

[Mother] But I’m not special, actually.

[Daughter] Yeah but you’re special because you’re my amah.

[Mother] [laughs] Thank you.

[woman speaks in foreign language]

[upbeat music]

[Daughter] My mother came here when she was my age.

I’m trying to understand who she was,

but I think my imagination keeps getting in the way.

In these images she’s always alone,

screaming, laughing, singing love songs to herself.

[clock ticking]

[upbeat music]

Why have I never asked her,

who were you before you became my mother?

So that’s what you look like.

Ah-ha.

[mother speaks in foreign language]

Yeah, I think so.

[mother speaks in foreign language]

[Daughter] In reality,

my mother never went to Disneyland alone.

After her first time,

she’ll return with her brother’s family.

Eventually, she’ll go with me.

But I made these images so that I can imagine a past

where my mother was free to be alone.

I wonder what images she could have made

if she had been given the same freedom she gave me.

[Mother] Everything is first time regarding filming.

[Daughter] But you could also film yourself in the mirror.

You’re right. [daughter laughs]

You’re smart. [chuckles]

The filming, making film,

will give you more freedom, right?

[Daughter] I really hope so.

[mother speaks in foreign language]

[Daughter] What does [speaks in foreign language]

mean again?

[Mother] [speaks in foreign language] means

I’m jealous and proud of you.

[mother speaks in foreign language]

[Daughter] It’s both?

[mother laughs]

[Daughter] Wait, [speaks in foreign language]?

[woman speaks in foreign language]

[Daughter] Do you feel like

being [speaks in foreign language]

is part of being a parent, though?

[mother speaks in foreign language]

[Daughter] Yeah, that’s funny,

I can’t think of an equivalent word in English.

It’s really funny.

[mother speaks in foreign language]

[gentle music]

[mother speaks in foreign language]

[Mother] You’re 26 now?

I’m gonna do like you.

[Daughter] Sometimes I go and sing karaoke all by myself.

[mother speaks in foreign language]

[Daughter] Do you think that’s weird?

[mother speaks in foreign language]

[Daughter] I think we’re both brave.

You came to a new country by yourself.

That’s very brave. Yeah.

[Daughter] That’s the most brave.

[mother speaks in foreign language]

Kristy!

[woman speaks in foreign language]

[woman speaks in foreign language]

[waves whooshing]

[gentle music]

[upbeat music]

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