By Roman Gerus
“Ocean Heaven”, a Chinese movie from 2011 starring Jet Li, left Kean students in an ocean of tears. The film was shown on Monday at 7 p.m. in the STEM auditorium as part of Kean’s second annual “ReelAbilities” film festival, which ended today.
The festival was created as a tribute to those who are disabled or have family members with disabilities, and the obstacles they overcome every day to persevere and triumph in life.
The movie takes place in modern day China, where Jet Li is featured in his first dramatic role. Jet Li plays the character of Wang Xingchang, the struggling father of a severely autistic child. His son Dafu, played by Zhang Wen, relies heavily on his father for most things. Wang works as a technician for an aquarium where Dafu likes to swim during the day.
Dafu’s disability disappears beneath the water’s surface as he dives to the vibrant depths below. The water serves as a metaphor for the inner beauty beneath Dafu’s seemingly dysfunctional appearance and also that of Wang’s unconditional love for him.
The unpredictable fluidity of the water mimics the instability and struggle in Wang and Dafu’s life, but also their ability to adapt and persevere in their dream for normalcy and stability. This dream, however, is seemingly crushed when Wang is diagnosed with terminal liver cancer after years of heavy drinking.
From that point on, Wang is on a mission to find a viable place for Dafu to live when he passes on and teach him the vital skills needed to go through life as a man.
Dafu also learns about love when he experiences his first crush on a clown named Lingling, played by Lun Mei Gwei, when the circus comes around. He then learns about heart break when the circus leaves along with Lingling, who taught him about the afterlife and telephones.
Although the movie was filmed in China, it transcends national borders and really portrays the struggle and unconditional love that every parent has for their child, along with the inner strength everyone has to beat their shortcomings and live eternally in an “ocean heaven”.