About the film
Growing up in New Zealand, Roseanne was the perfect Chinese
daughter. She excelled in piano, ballet and drama,
as well as becoming dux of her school. She did everything her parents
expected of her, until:
Banana in a Nutshell starts by tracing Roseanne Liang's upbringing as an over-achieving 1st generation Chinese New Zealander. Through an intimate voice-over and archival materials, it covers her stellar academic successes tempered by her dismal social inadequacy. This problem is surprisingly solved by the emergence of a wonderful boyfriend called Stephen and even more surprisingly, the falling into of love with him.
The second section of Banana in a Nutshell covers Roseanne's parents' traditional Chinese roots in Hong Kong, and their subsequent desire to raise 'good Chinese children' a world away in New Zealand. Through a confessional monologue and series of interviews with Roseanne's sisters, the growing divide between the children and the parents is illustrated most starkly with their hostile reaction to her eldest sister's first non-Chinese boyfriend. From this experience, Roseanne and Stephen decide to keep the first 6 years of their relationship a secret. An unexpected tragedy precipitates a showdown with Roseanne's parents which results in a major concession: a white boy may ask for acknowledgement and a daughter's hand in marriage, but only if he shows his devotion to the Chinese culture by learning its language.
The third and final section of Banana in a Nutshell
covers Stephen's quest to learn Chinese to a level well enough to impress
Roseanne's father into giving his blessing for marriage. Through observational
footage peppered with interviews of Roseanne and her sisters, the question
of fairness is asked (considering Roseanne's middle sister's Chinese
New Zealander husband doesn't speak any Chinese), how her father will
actually examine Stephen on his language skills and whether he will
find him wanting, and finally what they will do if her father refuses.
We follow the couple to just before the big meeting with Roseanne's
father, then wait nervously with her in the car. Finally, we catch the
immediate verdict, the elation that follows, and finish on a promising
domestic scene where Roseanne muses in voice-over on what is to come…