XMAS WITHOUT CHINA is an intimate portrait of two families living in the San Gabriel Valley of Los Angeles, California 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.
Exploring the intersection of consumerism and immigration in American culture, the documentary filmmakers follow their friend and fellow filmmaker Tom Xia on an intimate, humorous journey to get to know his community. Tom has spent his life in between Chinese and American culture, constantly negotiating between his home life and everything else in the California suburbs where he’s grown up since emigrating from Harbin, China at age eight. With deep ties to his extended family back home and increasing pride in China’s huge steps forward in the new millennium, Tom is incensed by how China is so misunderstood by Americans, particularly in the media.
Devising a plan to put American fears of China in context, Tom decides to challenge a local family to go through the Christmas season without any Chinese products. At a neighborhood street fair, Tom meets the Joneses, a young family trying to keep their children safe during a series of Chinese toy recalls that had driven them to have their son tested for lead-poisoning. Taking on Tom’s consumer “mission-impossible,” the Jones family discovers that they’re giving up not just their toys, plates, lamps, and clothes...but also the beloved hair dryer, coffeemaker, Xbox, and most of their Christmas decorations. With their house dark and their tree bare of Christmas lights, Tim Jones gets out his tools and begins making his own strand from American and Mexican electrical parts.
In a nearby neighborhood, Tom’s parents are finishing construction on their new home, using Chinese materials to proudly build their American dream. While they conscript Tom to help them decorate their first Christmas tree, the Joneses are trying to live without their Chinese-made stuff, which is now all in a huge storage container in their driveway, and must seriously rethink how to celebrate Christmas. With the holiday approaching, Tom’s dad warns him not to ruin the Joneses’ Christmas with his challenge. Getting way more than he bargained for, Tom finds himself challenged by the Joneses to confront his own identity between cultures.
"Honest and searching." —The Austin Chronicle
World Premiere, 2013 SXSW Film Festival
2013 Friars Club Comedy Film Festival
2013 Los Angeles Asian Pacific Film Festival
2013 MountainFilm Festival in Telluride
2013 Film Society of Lincoln Center – Green Screen Series
2013 Topanga Film Festival
2013 MountainFilm Festival in Aspen
"A surprising, sweet, funny documentary that provokes without sermons." —Wall Street Journal
"Well-made... Intriguing... Beautiful photography and direction. It is in the moments of difficulty or introspection that the film truly shines." —CriterionCast
"One of the festival's more fascinating documentaries." —Indiewire
"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
"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... Recommended." —Educational Media Reviews Online
"Carefully side steps the political ramifications of its subject matter, and studies how two different cultures experience the same holiday." —Film International
"An extremely thought-provoking film, intersecting numerous issues pertaining to U.S. immigrants, especially among children of immigrants, and the negative and positive realities of globalization. Highly recommended." —Dr. Monica Mong Trieu, Assistant Professor of Sociology and Asian American Studies, Purdue University
"Entertaining and educational, this film puts a human face on America's love-hate relationship with cheap imports. Sure to start a lively conversation." —Karl Gerth, Chair in Chinese Studies, Professor of History, University of California - San Diego
"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