Xmas Without China
Explores the intersection of consumerism and immigration in American culture.
Directed by Alicia Dwyer
Produced by Alicia Dwyer, Tom Xia
Featuring: Tom Xia
Co-Producers: MIchael Dwyer, Juli Vizza
Cinematographer: Michael Dwyer
Editor: Juli Vizza
Co-Editor: Tova Goodman
Music: Kenneth Pattengale
For Chicken & Egg Pictures:
Julie Parker Benello, Wendy Ettinger, Judith Helfand
Executive Producer for ITVS:
Sally Jo Fifer
A co-production of Dwyers & Xia, LLC and the Independent Television Service (ITVS), in association with the Center for Asian American Media (CAAM), with funding provided by Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB), and in association with Chicken & Egg Pictures and Pacific Pioneer Fund
Exploring the intersection of consumerism and immigration in American culture, XMAS WITHOUT CHINA is an intimate portrait of families wrestling with our drive to consume cheap products, but also with our desire for human connection and a sense of who we are in a fast-changing world.
"An extremely thought-provoking film...I highly recommend this film for the classroom." Dr. Monica Mong Trieu, Asst Prof, Sociology and Asian American Studies, Purdue University
Pride and mischief inspire Chinese immigrant Tom Xia to challenge the Americans in his Southern California suburb to celebrate Christmas without any Chinese products. With deep ties to his extended family back home, Tom is incensed by how he considers China is misunderstood, particularly by the American media. But he gets more than he bargains for when he meets the Joneses, a young family trying to keep their children safe as a wave of Chinese toy recalls forces them to have their son tested for lead poisoning.
The Joneses start to give up not just toys, plates, lamps, and clothes, but the beloved hair dryer, coffeemaker, X-Box, and many Christmas decorations, challenging the way they live everyday life and how they celebrate Christmas. Meanwhile, Tom's parents are constructing a new home, proudly using Chinese materials to build their American dream. As they decorate for Christmas for the first time and the interactions between the Xias and the Joneses intensify, Tom realizes that he's on a deeper journey to understand the complexities of his own divided loyalties between America and China.
Grade Level: 7-12, College, Adults
US Release Date: 2013
Copyright Date: 2013
DVD ISBN: 1-93777-299-3
"An extremely thought-provoking film. It does well intersecting numerous issues pertaining to U.S. immigrants, especially among children of immigrants, and the negative and positive realities of globalization. I highly recommend this film for the classroom."
Dr. Monica Mong Trieu, Assistant Professor of Sociology and Asian American Studies, Purdue University, Author, Identity Construction among Chinese-Vietnamese Americans: Being, Becoming, and Belonging
"Entertaining and educational, this film puts a human face on America's love-hate relationship with cheap imports. It's sure to start a lively conversation in any classroom."
Karl Gerth, Chair in Chinese Studies, Professor of History, University of California - San Diego, Author, China Made: Consumer Culture and the Creation of the Nation
"In response to media campaigns against 'made in China' products, this documentary follows two American families during a Christmas season. Without China-produced goods the consequences for the Jones family may be predictable, but the film thoughtfully explores cultural prejudices as well as the filmmaker's own ethnic identity. A candid, funny, and thought-provoking production."
Xiaojian Zhao, Professor of Asian American Studies, UC - Santa Barbara, Author, Remaking Chinese America and The New Chinese America
"Xmas Without China perfectly captures the complexities of the modern world. It will provoke thoughtful discussion. The dilemma of identity for the narrator Tom, who came from China to America at an early age, contrasts with the challenge to his neighbors, a family willing to try living without any products from China. The real people who inhabit Southern California talk candidly about what it means to be a citizen, a consumer, and, ultimately, friends."
Frank H. Wu, Chancellor and Dean, Hastings College of the Law, University of California, Author, Yellow: Race in America Beyond Black and White
"Tom Xia challenges the neighboring Jones family to spend Christmas without any products from China. Their material deprivation--no more coffeemaker, Xbox, toaster, and most toys...contrasts with the Xia's extensive acquisition of western decorations and ornamentations as they reach the pinnacle of their American, immigrant dream of moving into a large, western-style house. These separate paths lead both the Xias and the Jones to re-evaluate the drive to consume and the less tangible joys and sorrows of time spent with and without family."
Madeline Y. Hsu, Director, Center for Asian American Studies, Associate Professor, Department of History, University of Texas at Austin, Author, Dreaming of Gold, Dreaming of Home: Transnationalism and Migration Between the United States and Southern China, 1882-1943
"Is there a way to bridge cultural divides and ensure better product safety standards for all? Honest and thought-provoking...highly recommended."
The Midwest Book Review
"It is equally about Americans in a world of Chinese goods and Chinese in an American world...Suitable for high school classes and college courses in cultural anthropology, economic anthropology, anthropology of neoliberalism/globalization, anthropology of ethnic groups and relations, and American studies, as well as for general audiences."
Jack David Eller, Anthropology Reviews Database
"Recommended...This is a very emotional film that gets it point across in a non-preachy, indirect way. It's not about stuff, but rather about identity and all its inherent ambiguity, about family and that with one's family is where one belongs regardless of what country one was born in. Recommended for classes in sociology, business, and family and consumer sciences."
Anne Shelley, Illinois State University, Educational Media Reviews Online
"A surprising, sweet, funny documentary that provokes without sermons."
James V. Grimaldi, Wall Street Journal
"A well-made documentary...Intriguing...We all strive to give our families the absolute best, and in a world where foreign economies reign supreme, despite the laborers that are often taken advantage of to make the products so cheap, the confrontations that arise between Xia and the family experimenting here truly are interesting and important."
Joshua Brunsting, CriterionCast
"The film carefully side steps the political ramifications of its subject matter, and studies how two different cultures experience the same holiday. In the end, the differences between these cultures benefit from an intimate point of view, because ultimately love needs little translation. The families may express their love in different ways, but the look of it is the same. And if anything can break down the barriers to understanding, love and family are surely it."
Jacob Mertens, Film International
"While we witness the Xia's American dream becoming reality, we witness the demise of the Joneses' American dream and it's really fascinating when the two sides come together...This film should be showed in all college classes that have to do with cultural sensitivity and understanding as it'll show that even the most American of products might have some foreign aspect to them."
Alex DiGiovanna, Movie Buzzers
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The film's website
Awards and Festivals
SXSW Film Festival
Green Screens, Film Society of Lincoln Center
People's Choice Award, Wild & Scenic Environmental Film Festival
Best Environmental Theme, Flagstaff Mountain Film Festival
Audience Award, Friars Club Comedy Film Festival
Edmonton International Film Festival
Mountainfilm Festival, Telluride
Cucalorus Film Festival
Los Angeles Asian Pacific Film Festival
Topanga Film Festival
CAAMFest, San Francisco
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"Manufacturing in China is kind of a hub for any discussion about the nature of globalization...Xmas Without China provides other unique ways to approach the matter, though at a micro level and through the interaction between strangers who get to know each other through odd circumstances...The documentary presents a snapshot of what it means to live in a globalized world and what it means to be a product (both a person and a consumer good) of a globalized world in America."
"An exploration of not just the role of Chinese-made goods in American consumption, but also of the immigrant experience and the ethics of documentary filmmaking...The questions it asks are plenty thoughtful."
Dan Solomon, The Austin Chronicle
"A practical and humorous demonstration of interdependence in the global economy, showing how these products are less expensive (through cheaper labor) and are pervasive in the lives of Americans."
Liliana Goldin, Films for the Feminist Classroom