S Leo Chiang and Yang Sun
Hot Docs, IDFA, CAAMFest, Palm Springs, Doc Edge, Guth Gafa, LA Asian Pacific, Salem, Indie Street
An artist constructs an elaborate puppet play to explore his father’s fading memories.
As his father, Ma Ke, struggles with memory loss due to Alzheimer’s, Shanghai artist Maleonn begins an autobiographical artistic collaboration with both of his parents. Though they suffered from the Cultural Revolution, both had successful careers in the arts – Maleonn’s mother, Zheng Wei Tong, as an actress, and Ma Ke as an opera director for prestigious institutions in both Beijing and Shanghai. In his own practice, Maleonn fuses a range of disciplines, from remarkably lifelike, life-sized puppets and shadow theatre to mechanical engineering and photography, to create an ambitious project conceived as a “time machine” to revisit moments from his father’s past. With sensitivity, filmmakers S Leo Chiang and Yang Sun follow the parallel, interconnected stories of the development of the project, with all of its behind-the-scene dramas and problems, and Maleonn’s personal drive to connect with his father before Ma Ke’s disease robs them of that ability.