Jazz, film, and improvised culture.
BFF ’16: Fata Morgana (short)
is nothing like mortality to rekindle traditional practices. This is especially
tragically so in the case of parents outliving their children. It is a pain the
Wangs feel even more keenly as a result of China’s One Child Policy. Of course,
politics is the last thing on their minds as they prepare for their daughter’s
funeral in Amelie Wen’s short film Fata
which screens during the 2016 Brooklyn Film Festival.
the Wangs, making the trip to America is no small undertaking. Similarly, it
was quite a big deal for their daughter Ting-ting to study abroad here. Wen and
co-screenwriter-cinematographer Jon Keng never reveal exactly how she died, but
it hardly matters. The implications are the same regardless. Although the
couple had always been duly modern and materialistic, he is quite surprised by
the lengths and costs she will go to in observance of ancient funerary customs.
Conversely, she is frustrated by his reluctance to recognize their final
opportunity to provide for Ting-ting.
course, their arguments are really about deeper issues. More than anything,
their bitter exchanges really reflect their pain and grief. It would compound
the tragedy even further if their relationship were irreparably frayed, but
that is a very realistic potential development that often comes to pass in such
Fata Morgana is a smart,
mature, and emotionally shattering film that is profoundly forgiving of its all
too human characters, even if they aren’t. Wen has a good ear for dialogue and
silences (which are more important in this context). She helms with a sensitive
touch, serving as an actor’s director for her impressive international cast.
Ma (from One Child) is scrupulously
quiet and understated yet absolutely devastating as the mourning mother.
Similarly, Liu Pei-qi (who co-starred in Zhang Yimou’s classic Story of Qiu Ju and Coming Home) is nearly as poignant as the frustrated father, who
can never grieve enough to satisfy his wife. As if they were not laying a
sufficient beatdown on your psyche, Anita Liao is also incredibly touching as
Ting-ting’s friend Momo.
Preferring to concentrate on the raw family
drama, Wen never directly addresses China’s One Child Policy, which makes the
film even sadder when viewers think about it in retrospect (what’s more, it is reportedly
based on a true story). Of course, the Wangs are probably too old for such
regulations to effectively apply anymore, but who can say what might have
happened in the past, had things been different? It is a real heart-shredder,
but it is also an uncommonly lovely piece of cinema. Highly recommended, Fata Morgana screens this Sunday (6/5)
and next Friday (6/10) as part of this year’s Brooklyn Film Festival (the
Labels: BFF '16, Short Films