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The Independent Critic

Kate Lefoe

 "Age Height Education" Continues on the International Fest Circuit 
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A scene from Kate Lefoe's "Age Height Education"

Melbourne-based filmmaker Kate Lefoe participated in a two week film making scholarship to China as a part of the Looking China Program with Suzhou University in July 2014, an opportunity that resulted in Age Height Education, a nearly nine-minute short film about a "love market" in Shanghai, China that may seem odd for those in the United States, Australia or Europe, but provides an insight into the significance that a child's marriage still holds to many traditional parents in China. 

Every Sunday, traditional Chinese parents gather in the People's Square in Shanghai to find their children dates. Matchmakers help them find their children potential partners with the right qualifications, which includes everything from skin tone to hometown. While such a practice could have easily been portrayed as unusual or quirky, one of the joys of Lefoe's involving short doc is that Age Height Education treats the practice with cultural sensitivity and a willingness to just sort of immerse the camera in the People's Square as Lefoe talks to a couple of different matchmakers, multiple parents, and follows the scene in the park as parents, who continue to enjoy a significant role in marriage in many traditional Chinese homes, do what they can to help their child, and we're talking adult children, find the perfect spouse. 

Age Height Education has screened in multiple festivals over the course of its journey including St. Kilda Film Festival in 2017, Canberra Short Film Festival and Austin Asian-American Film Festival in 2016, and was both Finalist in the Phoenix Life Documentary Awards in 2015 in (Mandarin Version), and Youth Award Winner, Beijing Radio and Television Network Trans Pacific Documentaries, China 2015 ( also the Mandarin Version of the film). Age Height Education's Mandarin version also screened at the American Chinese Film Festival in California in 2015.

It is refreshing to see a film such as Age Height Education that humanizes the people behind such a tradition rather than playing into stereotypes. There were times while watching Age Height Education that it felt like I was watching my own parents filling out a personal ad for me (admittedly, a frightening thought), and there's such a radiant sincerity in everything that unfolds in the film that one gains a respect for and appreciation of this practically that seems unique but really reflects what is often a universal desire by parents to see their children marry well, be happy and, if we're being honest, be stable enough so that when the parents need them the kids can step up to the plate. 

For more information on Age Height Education, visit the film's website linked to in the credits. 

© Written by Richard Propes
The Independent Critic