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A Thousand Years of Good Prayers

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Editorial Reviews

Product Description

Mr. Shi, a Chinese man , travels to America to visit his American-resident daughter after her recent divorce. Though his trip starts off as a mission to see his daughter remarry, he realizes a generational and geographical divide has developed between them preventing him from completing the journey he set out for. In turn, Mr. Shi ends up exploring human relationships and communication barriers.


A Thousand Years of Good Prayers is a small chamber piece about the intricacies of family and the complexities of lives connected to two countries. In other words, it's ideal subject matter for director Wayne Wang (The Joy Luck Club), a frequent specialist in such material. This one's set in an all-American small city (not named, but filmed in Spokane, Washington), where an all-American woman (Faye Yu) is visited by her very Chinese father (Henry O). At one time a rocket scientist during the heyday of the Cold War, he's been at loose ends for a while. His main occupations while visiting his predictably busy daughter are cooking her elaborate Chinese meals and trying to counsel her on her love life--he knows a lot about food, not so much about the ways an independent 21st-century American woman might behave. This believable sketch is based on a short story by Yiyun Li, who also scripted, and it hits some credible notes without generating a great deal of cinematic excitement. The subplot, in which the father strikes up a kind of friendship with an Iranian woman he meets in a park (their conversation is fluid, despite not sharing a common language), feels a bit insistent in providing a contrast to the difficult talks between father and child. The inexpensive-looking video photography doesn't help, either. But it does work as a quiet mood piece, and modest actors' workshop. Wang directed another film from a Yiyun Li story, The Princess of Nebraska, at about the same time as this film. --Robert Horton

Special Features

  • Photo Gallery
  • Script to Screen
  • Mr. Shi and the Cultural Revolution
  • 2 Women, 2 Chinas, 2 Stories

Product Details

  • Actors: Faye Yu, Henry O, Vida Ghahremani, Pasha Lychnicoff
  • Directors: Wayne Wang
  • Format: Multiple Formats, Closed-captioned, Color, Dolby, Dubbed, NTSC, Subtitled, Widescreen
  • Language: English
  • Subtitles: English, Spanish
  • Dubbed: English
  • Region: Region 1 (U.S. and Canada only. Read more about DVD formats.)
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated: Unrated
  • Studio: Magnolia Home Entertainment
  • DVD Release Date: May 26, 2009
  • Run Time: 83 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (14 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B001RJ1Y5I
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #130,325 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)
  • Learn more about "A Thousand Years of Good Prayers" on IMDb

Customer Reviews

3.8 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Glenn E. Stambaugh on June 22, 2009
Format: DVD Verified Purchase
A widowed Chinese father visits America to see his daughter for the first time in years. For reasons we gradually discover in the course of the film, they are not close, and the daughter, having installed him in her apartment, spends more time away each day, politely avoiding discussing her life with him at all, keeping her emotional distance. We see the father, despite his broken English, take walks, strike up casual conversations with a few Americans, like an unemployed girl lounging by a pool in her bikini, who explains she wants to be a "forensic scientist," to which he replies he was a rocket scientist back in China, a claim we will find out a great deal more about later in the film. The father begins meeting an Iranian woman of his own age in a nearby park each day, discussing their respective family situations, which parallel each other in some unfortunate ways. Beginning to snoop on his daughter a bit, the father finds some surprising things about her life, but angers her in the process, which finally forces them to confront each other and attempt to right some misunderstandings. Sadly, they still cannot reconcile, and the daughter packs the father off on a tour for his remaining time in America, the movie ending as he asks her not to see him off, neither of them liking good-byes.

This movie shares some qualities with Ozu's best films from the early fifties, especially TOKYO STORY, not the visual style, but the intensely observed family dynamics. But here, in modern America, lacking extended families, Wang uses chance encounters with characters like the Iranian woman to achieve a less-profound but still emotionally moving effect.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Tsuyoshi on January 30, 2010
Format: DVD
Mr. Shi (Henry O), a retired Chinese rocket engineer, travels from Beijing to meet his daughter Yilan (Fiehong Yu) living alone in America for the first time in 12 years. Mild-mannered Mr. Shi is a pretty outgoing person, ready to learn and happy to chat with other residents, including "Madame" (Vida Ghahremani), an elderly Iranian lady he met in the nearby park.

Still there is some tension between Mr. Shi and Yilan, who suggests he go on a tour around the country before winter comes. Or maybe she just doesn't want him here. The father is genuinely worried about his daughter, recently divorced. Mr. Shi really wishes her happiness - which means remarriage, perhaps - but his eagerness only makes the situation difficult.

"A Thousand Years of Good Prayers" is based on the novel by Yiyun Li (which I haven't read), but the cinematic adaptation and its low-key approach would remind us of a classic film "Tokyo Story." Like Yasujiro Ozu's touching drama, Wayne Wang ("Smoke") takes time to show the personality and the history of Mr. Shi through a series of dialogues with every slight facial expression, so that we can gradually understand the deep-seated issues between the father and the daughter.

"A Thousand Years of Good Prayers" was shot in Spokane, Washington, and for the making of the film Wayne Wang hired non-professionals for the supporting roles such as the girl at the poolside or the ex-CIA condominium guard. Some part of the dialogues exchanged between them and Mr. Shi is based on their real-life experiences.

Nothing "big" happens in "A Thousand Years of Good Prayers." The 83-minute film resolves with a slightly melodramatic touch, but thanks to the excellent acting from the two leads, the film remains engaging throughout. It's good to see Wayne Wang back in form. A bit too slow and talky sometimes, and maybe not as great as his masterpiece "Smoke," but this character-driven drama is still worth watching.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Morica on March 21, 2012
Format: Amazon Instant Video
Lovely script, beautiful dialogue in Chinese and in English and other languages. Great acting. The film draws the viewer in. It is suitable for family viewing. One learns a lot about China and this family's ability or difficulty in relating to each other. I enjoyed watching it.
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Format: DVD
Wayne Wang also directed The Joy Luck Club (The Joy Luck Club), A Thousand Years of Good Prayers is a beautiful, simple, follow up to that wonderful film. Where The Joy Luck Club is full of people, lots of talking, a lot of movement; A Thousand Years is subtle, quiet and introspective. The film is basically two people, the father and his daughter. There are side characters, but the main thrust is these two wonderful people.

The movie opens with some beautiful cello playing while we people walking out of an airport gate exit. An old Chinese man walks through the exit, and a beautiful young Chinese woman says, "Dad..." They spend some time at luggage claim. Two women walk up and one says to the other, this is the rocket scientist I sat next to on the plane. The father and daughter leave the airport, and stop for gas. Above the car there is a sign, Fresh flowers for weddings.

The remaining hour and 10 minutes of this one hour 30 minute film is the conversations between father and daughter; and the observations her father makes about people he meets every day. It is a simple film, nothing exciting happens, there is little action, but it is one of those quiet little films that just draws you in and gives you enjoyment to spend time with the father and daughter.

These may all seem like minute details in a film, but they illustrate how carefully Wayne Wang built this film. The details foretell truths uncovered later in the film, all beautifully brought together. In a sense this film could have been a play, however, it does not feel like the adaptation of theatre (there are films where this is badly done, you feel the theatre in the movie - not at all the case here).
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