Beyond the Bao:
Exploring the Short Film
Bao, a short Pixar film by Domee Shi, was released in 2018. The short explores themes including: family, culture, empty nest syndrome and food. At Re-imagining Migration, we encourage educators to highlight educational media that humanize the experiences of migration, which include the topics addressed in Bao.
What does bao mean? A Bao is a Chinese dish, a steamed bun usually filled with meat or vegetables. We learned about the different translations of the word from Behind the Name. In Chinese, Bǎo means “treasure, jewel, precious, rare”. In Vietnamese, the name Bảo means “protection or security”. Keep these meanings in mind as you watch the short film.
Our work is informed by our framework, which consists of 10 questions pertaining to migration. In a world on the move, we urge educators and students to consider the multifaceted nature of migration. Bao focuses on the experience of acculturation.
As the story unfolds in Bao, we see that the actions of the characters and their surroundings have symbolic importance. As you watch the film, look for symbols and symbolic actions. Teachers, if you plan to use Bao in your classes, we encourage you to consider the discussion questions we’ve included below. Moreover, we’d love to hear about how this goes for you, please feel free to email us at firstname.lastname@example.org
We couldn’t find the short film online for free, but you can buy it on YouTube for $1.99.
- In this film, the animators have given the Bao a personality. How would you describe the Bao?
- What does the Bao want to do?
- What does the film tell us about what the Bao symbolizes?
- Where does the story take place?
- What do we know about the identity and culture of the characters from their surroundings? This includes decorations in their house as well as the neighborhood where they live.
- What does the Bao’s room tell you about the differences between him and his family?
- This family story is told through food. Beyond simply providing nutrients or something to eat, what is the role of food in families and their traditions?
- What role does food play in your family and your culture?
Relationship between the Bao and his mother
- What tensions can you see between the Bao and his mother?
- Why does the mother eat the Bao? What might that symbolize?
- Toward the end of the film, the protagonist’s son returns and they sit together and cry. Why do you think that is?
- If someone was to ask you what the film is about, what would you say?
- What is the conflict in the story? How is it resolved?
- Are there things that resonate with your own experiences?
- If so, what are they?
- If not, then what’s something new you learned?
Disney Pixar recently published this informative thread about Bao on Chinese New Year (Tuesday, February 5, 2019):
— Disney•Pixar (@DisneyPixar) February 5, 2019
You can also go to this Disney webpage to see how you can pick up a copy of Bao.