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Best of SNO

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Alumni and students document cross-generational bonds in “Her Image”

Photo used with permission from Suanna Zhong
Lynbrook students and alumni create short film on the relationship between a mother and her daughter.

“When I look at you, I see so much of myself. But so much of you is not in the image of me.”

This line from the closing scenes of “Her Image,” a short film with a crew including nine Lynbrook alumni and students, captures the heart of the narrative: Asian American mother Jenny Ma realizes that although her daughter’s values may differ from her own, she still accepts and loves her for who she is.

The creation of “Her Image” began during the summer of 2022 when alumni Suanna Zhong and Austin Tong decided to collaborate on a passion project. Zhong drew from her personal experiences when brainstorming the plot, reflecting on her relationship with her mother. Following the idea’s conception, Zhong and Tong reached out to students in Lynbrook’s ASB Tech Commission and other alumni to help out.

“During production, I learned to give back by bringing people on the set and giving them this professional experience,” Tong said. “I hope the film inspires others to create their own stories through mediums like filmmaking.”

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The title, “Her Image,” is captured through a prominent symbol in the film: a vintage camera. The title represents the multiple interpretations of “image” — a physical photograph and the way a person is viewed by others — and the film plays on this duality to underscore the cross-generational understanding that the two protagonists come to at the end.

Miller teacher Betty Chan was cast as the mother, Jenny, and actress Alyssa So played the role of the daughter, Isabella. So applied through the online platform Backstage after reading the casting notice and was intrigued by how the themes paralleled her own experience in an immigrant family.

“A lot of students at Lynbrook have parents from different cultures which is reflected in the film,” senior and director of photography Katie Chung said. “The conflicts you go through with parents are natural, but remember to always love each other.”

Small details in the set design help bring the film’s message alive. The outfits of every character was an extension of their inner personality: Isabella and her sister wear complementary colors to show their tight-knit relationship while Jenny dresses in neutral-toned colors. The ending where Isabella and Jenny bake a pie together is a full-circle moment, showing their new connection, and contrasts the beginning where Jenny cooks alone. 

“Another theme in the film is looking up to your elders,” gaffer and grip Gio Cabaltica said. “During the film’s production, as the youngest member on set, I was looking up to Austin and Suanna who taught me so much. Next year, as a senior, I want to be able to similarly help other underclassmen.”

The film explores the dichotomy between Isabella’s maximalism and Jenny’s minimalism. Although the two argue about their differing values, they begin to connect at the end of the film when Isabella pulls out a vintage camera from her bag that Jenny recognizes as the same type of camera that she had when she was younger. As they each look through the lens to take a picture of the other, they realize that they each have their own similar, yet unique image that transcends cultural and generational boundaries.

“I would like students to see from their parents’ perspectives and be more conscious that their concerns are valid,” Zhong said. “I know that one short film won’t resolve a complex relationship that someone might have with their parents, but I hope for someone out there, it can help with just one step forward to better understanding the older generation.”

This story was originally published on The Epic on February 6, 2023.