WHAT THEY LEFT BEHIND, 7min., USA
Directed by Xingyu Gu
Several years after her grandfathers had passed away, a young woman recollects her memories of them.
As someone who had spent a third of their life half a planet away from home, nostalgia is a subject that I always find myself go back into. I used to only go back to China once every year during winter break for about a month. Due to COVID, I was able to go home and take classes remotely. I stayed at home from January until August 2021. This was probably the longest I had even been home in eight years. I was able to recall a ton of memories that I had in the apartment and the city that I grew up in, with people who have accompanied me my whole life.
It was during this time that I started to realize that my grandmothers are getting old. They are in their 80s, but they felt much older this time than when I last saw them two years before. My maternal grandmother was displaying early signs of Alzheimer’s. It was a big contrast from the strong, independent grandmother that I remembered. I could not help but worry about her physical health. It was also sad to see how lonely they are after both of my grandfathers passed away.
I originally wanted to make a documentary film dedicated to my grandmothers. However, I had a lot of trouble communicating my ideas so I was not able to conduct interviews with either my grandmothers or my mom. With little luck on making a documentary, I had to look into my past and make a story based on what I know. After going through my family photos, I started to realize the absence of male figures in my family. They are there, but not really. However, they still have a huge impact on the female figures of my family. I wanted to explore more about my family from that perspective, so I chose to dig deeper into my memories of my grandfathers who both passed away about a decade ago.
One thing I really wanted to include in this film was my very first memory of seeing the dead body of my great-grandfather lying on a wooden bed. This brings forward further exploration about the dead of my grandfathers and my feelings for their passing. My earliest memory still haunts me to this day, so I wanted to make peace with all the deaths I had witnessed through the process of making this film.