Each year since 2018, Apple releases a shot-on-iPhone short film for Chinese New Year. This year’s new ad by Hollywood director Marc Webb and The Long Season screenwriter Yiran Pan is a whopping 15-minute-long piece titled “Little Garlic”, shot entirely on the iPhone 15 Pro Max.
The film follows Xiaowei, a child (with a self-described garlic-shaped nose) who lives with her grandfather and is starting at a new school. Although her grandfather, played by Fan Wei, the award-winning star of The Long Season, tells her to be herself, she still lacks confidence in her looks and abilities. In a surreal turn of events, Xiaowei discovers she has a superpower that allows her to turn into anyone she wants. Her journey of losing and finding herself then begins.
A behind-the-scenes video was also released, showing the team using the iPhones in innovative ways, sometimes with professional devices, other times with makeshift accessories such as attaching the smartphone to a basketball for the spinning shots at the court.
The fantastic elements and superpowers of the story fit the director of The Amazing Spider-Man like a glove. The core of the story addresses the identity crises of the online generations, especially Gen Z of China. On Weibo, China’s Twitter-like platform, the topic “Apple CNY short Little Garlic” (#苹果春节短片小蒜头#) has gained an impressive 19.36 million views.
The story of “Little Garlic” is about self-discovery and accepting oneself in an age when you can be anyone. It takes on a universal theme for the Chinese festival possibly due to having an American director. Pundits have pointed out that the Apple‘s CNY ads don’t traditionally focus on the festivity or traditions, but rather on family, growth and community. Some might argue that it is natural for Apple, an American company, to avoid the challenges of depicting authentic Chinese New Year spirits. However, universal themes have the merit of more readily overcoming difficulties posed by the various customs across the vast nation.