The Dragon Dream

The Dragon Dream tells the story of Asian American college student Sam. He lives in two parallel yet conflicting societies: American at school, and Chinese at home. He tries to live up to his parents’ expectations while withholding his inner emotions.

  • Sophie Cheung
  • Sophie Cheung
  • Sophie Cheung
  • Sophie Cheung
    Director of Photography
  • Stephanie Hwang
    Executive Producers
  • Justin Hoey
    Executive Producers
  • Raymond Kwai
    Key Cast
  • Bonnie Chang
    Key Cast
  • Huaiyi Tsai
    Key Cast
  • Chester Wai
    Key Cast
    "Concerned Friend"
  • Matthew Barr
    Sound Designer
  • Sophie Cheung
    Production Design
  • Torazo Yamada
    Sound & Boom Operator
  • Koh Kazama
    Location Manager
  • Ken Bai
    Prop Assistant
  • Tiffany Truong
    Prop Assistant
  • Qikun Li
    Prop Assistant
  • Jin Kim
  • Kenny Du
    Camera Assistant
  • Stephanie Zimmer
    Camera Assistant
    Fair Game
  • Stephanie Hwang
    Hair & Makeup
  • Christine Aumiller
    Poster Illustration
  • Daniel Lee
    Poster Illustration
  • Shiyuan Zhang
    Equipment Coordinator
  • Gabi Chun
    Production Assistant
  • Yuanyang Teng
    Production Assistant
  • Allie Hutchins
  • Afsheen Ayaz
  • Chong Zhou
  • David Lam
  • Lu Chen
  • Grace Kim
  • Michael Xu
  • Project Title (Original Language):
  • Project Type:
    Short, Student
  • Genres:
  • Runtime:
    10 minutes 23 seconds
  • Completion Date:
    July 26, 2019
  • Production Budget:
    3,000 USD
  • Country of Origin:
    United States
  • Country of Filming:
    United States
  • Language:
    Chinese, English
  • Shooting Format:
    Sony A7III
  • Aspect Ratio:
  • Film Color:
  • First-time Filmmaker:
  • Student Project:
Director Biography - Sophie Cheung

New York-based Sophie Cheung is a photographer, filmmaker, and designer whose work is inspired by cinema and global culture. Her photography has appeared in numerous print and online magazines, including Vogue’s PhotoVogue “Best Of” feature. Cheung has photographed prominent models, musicians, politicians and Olympic athletes. Originally trained in architecture in her native Hong Kong, where she was also a producer of TEDx talks, the photographer recently earned her Master’s in Digital Photography from New York’s prestigious School of Visual Arts.

Add Director Biography
Director Statement

The common phrase 望子成龍 in the Chinese language translates as “to see one’s son become a dragon.” It means to wish for one’s child, especially if male, to become very successful in life. (Phoenix for is substituted for dragon with female children). The Dragon Dream is a ten-minute narrative film that explores the way this cultural imperative places great academic pressure on young people in Asian communities. In particular, it addresses the serious mental health problems caused by the phenomenon.

Even as a third grader in primary school in my native Hong Kong, I remember often doing homework and studying for tests long past dinner time. As students, our common goal was to achieve the best grades possible, in order to enter the most prestigious universities. It didn’t matter if the work reflected our true interests or passions. As a sophomore at a prestigious university in Hong Kong, I began to question the meaning, value, and consequences of this social aspiration when five of my fellow students had commited suicide just six months into the academic year. There were many other student suicides in other educational institutions. As I reached my senior year, three of my close personal friends had attempted suicide. All were male.

Before proceeding with the film, I interviewed friends and family who have experienced these type of problems, and with that formed the basis for its plot. The academic pressure that The Dragon Dream addresses is particularly intense for young men, and toxic notions of masculinity and familial relationships are vital elements in the film. This is why its protagonist, Sam, is male.

Asian societies and subcultures tend to disregard mental health issues. Many see depressed people as “crazy,” and are unwilling or unable to recognize the symptoms of the disorder. Furthermore, Sam has difficulty revealing his true feelings to his parents, a reflection of many modern familial relationships. To generalize the pressure to perform that Asian society places on its children, the faces of the film’s parents—representatives of the larger Asian community—are always turned away from the camera, making them anonymous.

The heart and the clock are significant symbols in The Dragon Dream. Sam is often seen studying the structure and function of the heart. The heart represents the emotion and passion that are so lacking in his efforts to be studious. As the film approaches its climax, we can hear Sam’s heart beating louder and louder, which represents his erupting emotions. The heartbeat can even be viewed as a representation of his anticipation of the freedom he associates with his final decision. The clock is a symbol of time, in particular a countdown of the time that Sam has left, and more generally the short time that suicidal students have on earth. Two main color palettes dominate the film, yellow and blue. Yellow represents the reality of Sam’s situation and blue represents his mind. The film opens with yellow and begins to mix with blue as it progresses. As the mental health of protagonist deteriorates and starts to overpower reality, it ends with a blue/white scheme, white being the color associated with death in Asia.

Overall, The Dragon Dream is my effort to bring attention to the destructive cultural expectation that leads to suicides such as Sam’s. The film exposes the terrible pressure these expectations impose on young Asians, in the hope that it will shine a light on this issue.