“I used to pray to God to give me double eyelids. I used to pray to God to be white.” Videography is an integral part of Sarah Tang’s identity. From the moment she won an award for a movie she made in fifth grade, the Waco, TX native has been exploring the many facets of her character. In her film, God Can’t Give You Double Eyelids, Tang delves into the intersections between two particular parts of herself: the Baptist Christian faith she grew up with and her Chinese heritage.
Sarah Tang is an experimental documentary filmmaker and mixed media video creator. In 2021, she was chosen as a recipient for The Sauce Fellowship. The Sauce is a collaboration between the Center for Asian American Media (CAAM) and the New Orleans Video Access Coalition (NOVAC) intended to elevate the voices of Asian filmmakers from the American South. Tang parses the complex personal stories of current and former members of a white progressive church in her hometown — including herself.
“It was really painful,” comments Tang on the creation of her film. “I had to look closely at myself and not where I came from, and there is a lot of second guessing. Sometimes I don’t believe my own experiences.” Initially, Tang felt at home in the church; she was comforted by the routine of ceremony and ritual. She was harshly confronted with the disparities between her ethnicity and Christianity after participating in a mission trip to China. Tang discovered that she did not fit into the white ideals of her former church community. “When I left the faith, it coincided with me leaning into my Chinese-ness.”
For one of multiple perspectives gathered in God Can’t Give You Double Eyelids, Tang interviewed an active member of the church she once belonged to. Auntie L was a professor of the Old Testament at a seminary in Texas and one of a select few Chinese women that teach the Bible in North America. “[She] has a lifetime of experiences with adversity and oppression at the hands of Christians and the church,” Tang notes, “and yet has still continued to hold tightly to her faith.”
Tang takes inspiration from the legendary director Wong Kar-wai (In the Mood for Love) as well as her own creative vision in her film. “There’s a part where I talk about being in the car and being drunk for the first time, and so I dropped the frame rate.” Her distinctive artistic direction involves vivid patterns, sharp cut-outs of old footage, and poignant voiceover narration — all of which serve to bolster her storytelling.
God Can’t Give You Double Eyelids aims to represent those with complicated relationships with their upbringing, says Tang. “I made it for people who like me… are still grappling with the ways that they feel hurt and feel traumatized lately by people and by community… and still find that this is a place that they’re from, and that you can’t separate yourself from that.”
Simultaneously, she wants the film to be a layered representation of her time in the church. “One of my fears with this film is that people will see it and come away with the conclusion that I’m only angry. I want the takeaway to be a lot more nuanced than just my anger.” In essence, God Can’t Give You Double Eyelids reckons with Tang’s departure from her faith as she continues to investigate her own identity.
Sophie dela Cruz is an author and poet with a passion for storytelling that represents their Asian and queer communities. Outside of their writing, they are an Integrative Biology student at the University of California, Berkeley. You can find them on IG @sophieandtheirstories and TikTok @sophrosyne promoting new diverse reads, sharing their outfits-of-the-day, and celebrating life in the STEM fields.