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Q&A with Sight actor Terry Chen and memoirist Ming Wang

Q&A with Sight actor Terry Chen and memoirist Ming Wang


May is Asian American, Native Hawaiian, and Pacific Islander Heritage Month. Last year, The Dartmouth published a list of Asian American TV shows and movies look. This year, The Dartmouth had the opportunity to speak to two people involved in the production of an upcoming Asian American film, Sight, based on the Chinese doctor's memoir From Darkness to Sight: A Journey from Hardship to Healing -American Ming Wang. Released May 24, the film follows the real-life story of Wang on his journey to becoming a renowned eye surgeon, a journey that took him from China during the Cultural Revolution to Tennessee, where he established the Wang Foundation for restoration of sight. The Foundation helps provide free sight-restoring surgeries to patients.

The Dartmouth sat down with Wang and Terry Chen, the actor who plays Wang, to discuss the process of making the film and the impact they hope to have with the film.

Recently, more and more Asian American actors and films have been in the spotlight. This film, through Wang's story, highlights the experience of Asian immigrants in the United States. Mr. Chen, how does it feel to portray a real person? What inspiration did you gain from conversations with Dr. Wang?

CT: Stories of an incredible life that began in China and has so far brought Dr. Ming Wang to North America, to Nashville, Tennessee, where he created this incredible vision restoration foundation. Just learning about Wang and his life, his struggles and the obstacles he went through to get to where he is today has been incredibly inspiring. I am so proud, honored and privileged to bring his story to light and to be supported by an incredible studio bringing it to mainstream audiences in 2,000 theaters across the United States.

One of the major themes of the film is having confidence in the face of challenges. Dr. Wang, what role has faith played in your life and how did you want to portray faith in the film?

MW: Faith has a significant impact on my life. It helped me develop a sense of purpose. I have always been interested in science and technology studies. I earned two doctorates, a doctorate in physics and a second doctorate in medicine. I felt like it was God calling me to use my hard-earned medical skills to help those who need help the most, namely blind orphaned children. Science is necessary and important, it is a must. But faith has helped me develop a higher purpose, for which we use our scientific skills. Sometimes we do research, we develop technologies, but we forget that if we can't bring the technology to those who need it most, it won't do any good.

The Cultural Revolution brought trauma in different ways for different people, and this film speaks to that. What drove the decision to depict the Cultural Revolution, and what was it like to perform or see the Revolution on the big screen?

CT: My parents immigrated here from Taiwan in 1973. The Cultural Revolution was part of the context in which Wang grew up and came from, but we weren't trying to convey a political message by depicting that part. And unfortunately, I wasn't part of those scenes because at that point, he was a young Wang. Ben Wang and Jayden Zhang, the younger actors who play Wang in his early years, were the ones who acted in these scenes, so I was a little distant. But the controversial subject is part of our film because it was of course part of Wang's life. I believe that really shaped his path and his determination and his determination to become who he is. Pressure makes diamonds, right? Wang has certainly shed light on certain aspects of his childhood, but his success in helping millions of people around the world through his foundation in Nashville is what we really want to convey in this message of hope, transformation and inspiration.

MW: Yes, the Cultural Revolution was part of modern Chinese history, and that is a fact. But through this film, we are not focusing on political commentary or taking a particular position one way or the other. It's about bringing this to people through the lens of an 8-year-old and a 14-year-old who lived through the trauma of the Cultural Revolution, and really making a point: we were lucky enough to live in the UNITED STATES. Today. We have freedom. And we must appreciate it all the more as fellow Americans today by being more willing to work together.

What do you think will be the biggest takeaways from this film, both for Asian American audiences and non-Asian American audiences?

CT: I hope this film inspires marginalized demographic groups and ethnic minorities at all levels to tell their own stories. I also hope that this film, about the true story of this incredible human journey, can shake things up, in some way, and continue the conversation about diversity and representation.

MW:Asian Americans, Native Hawaiians and Pacific Islanders, this group of people have definite attributes of being hard workers and good work ethic, but they were too quiet. And through Sight, we want to inspire, encourage, and motivate AAPI people to recognize that they live in an open society here in the West. Simply doing what you say you are going to do is not enough. If you don't communicate, if you don't participate, if you don't tell America what we've accomplished, we won't get the respect we deserve. So get changed. Not only do what we say, but also say what we do. Tell our stories.

This interview has been edited for clarity and length.

Jessica Sun Li

Jessica Sun Li ’24 is a sociology major and English minor from the Chicago suburbs. She was art editor of the 180th Directory and her passion project is the “Dear Mirror” column. Outside of Dartmouth, she is involved with the figure skating team and sociology research. She really wants to adopt a cat.




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