MOTHERLAND, 19min., USA
Directed by Lijie Xie
When a Chinese mother visits her son in Manhattan to celebrate news of his engagement, she's taken aback to discover that her son is actually planning to marry another man. As she watches the couple prepare to come out to her, she must grapple with her emotions and decide how to react to the news.
Get to know the filmmaker:
1. What motivated you to make this film?
I spent a whole year during COVID, 24/7, with my family, particularly with my mom who traveled from China to assist my sister in moving and got stuck with us in Michigan. Throughout that year, I discovered how incredibly adaptive and supportive my mom is, demonstrating a remarkable capacity for learning and a strong will to understand her children. These characteristics really inspired this film and its central character.
2. From the idea to the finished product, how long did it take for you to make this film?
It took almost two years. The writing itself took half a year, and we produced it along the way.
After production, we let the footage sit for a while because I wanted to have a fresh look before going into the editing room with an editor's eye and perspective. That time off really helped me view the story through a different lens, allowing us to get rid of a lot of material that wasn’t necessary for the story.
3. How would you describe your film in two words!?
The first two words that come to my mind are "hopeful" and "warm." That's what I felt when I was making it.
4. What was the biggest obstacle you faced in completing this film?
Finding the right talents was a challenge. Locating proficient Mandarin-speaking talents in New York City turned out to be harder than we initially thought. Furthermore, finding an actress who could truly embody the character of the mom was even more difficult. It took us quite some time to discover Rika, the lead actress who plays the mom. Although it was her first acting role, she did a great job, and her natural presence added significant depth to the character.
5. What were your initial reactions when watching the audience talking about your film in the feedback video?
I actually recorded my reaction, which was quite funny. Watching it back, I noticed I was smiling the entire time. It made me genuinely happy to see that the audience felt something! To me, that's more important – that they walked away with a feeling. They articulated so well the emotions they experienced, and I felt understood. I really appreciate that.
6. When did you realize that you wanted to make films?
It was when I moved back to New York from China after COVID. Reflecting on it, I believed it was the right time to do this, as it would assist me in growing and understanding my own feelings towards my family, my identity, and my place in the world.
7. What film have you seen the most in your life?
"Her" by Spike Jonze. It always evokes a strong sense of nostalgia in me, the origins of which I'm not entirely sure. It might be a sort of future nostalgia.
8. What other elements of the festival experience can we and other festivals implement to satisfy you and help you further your filmmaking career?
The feedback really helped me to understand further what works in the film and what might not come through. There's always some new discovery about the film that I'm happy to learn.
Providing a published transcription of the audience's review video could be helpful. It would allow those interested in learning about the film to access the reviews more quickly by reading them. Additionally, it would increase press exposure as the transcriptions can be easily quoted and cited.
9. You submitted to the festival via FilmFreeway. How has your experiences been working on the festival platform site?
I liked it, as it is convenient for packaging your film and tracking all the progress it makes.
10. What is your favorite meal?
11. What is next for you? A new film?
Yes, I'm working on a new short film which holds a special place for me, as it was the first script I ever wrote, years ago. I've cherished it greatly and have always wanted to do it justice. It finally feels like the right time to make it happen. I'm very excited about it!