THE WORLD OF MAMA BUTTERFLY, 4min., China
Directed by Yuqian Cao
A minor ethnic group, Miao, in Guizhou, China, holds butterfly as their totem and applies the symbol in their embroidery.
Get to know the filmmaker:
1. What motivated you to make this film?
When I returned to China in the gap year before the epidemic, there was a gathering of friends. A good friend is one of the Miao people. She took out an embroidery piece of Miao embroidery to show everyone. It was a butterfly piece of the ancestral totem of the Miao. She showed us her culture very enthusiastically, and she planned to do an exhibition about Miao embroidery. When she heard that I was studying film and television in the United States, she warmly invited me to go to Guizhou, China to shoot a video for this exhibition. This video later became my documentary short.
When I saw the patterns of the embroidered piece, I felt that I saw a kind of beauty rarely seen. It was with vitality, vivid color, and full of mythical imagination. The embroidery was not overly refined, but exquisitely crafted.
When I learned that this technic is a form of intangible cultural heritage by UNESCO, I felt more urged to make a documentary for this culture. Even though many disappearances of cultural forms may be inevitable, the memory should be preserved at least.
2. From the idea to the finished product, how long did it take for you to make this film?
It took me half a year to make the first draft of the short film, and I leave it there for one and a half year, until the film was able to show at a Miao embroidery exhibition. I made another draft for the showcase and locked my picture then.
3. How would you describe your film in two words!?
A cultural promotional documentary.
4. What was the biggest obstacle you faced in completing this film?
The shooting went quite well as I received a lot of help from Guizhou local TV station. The major pity was that I didn’t get a longer time to shoot the footage for a more immersive and well-rounded documentary. My biggest obstacle in post-production was to develop a storyline and decided how much footage I include in this short because it was totally up to me. Once the music was set everything unfolded naturally. Overall, it was a pleasant and smooth filmmaking experience.
5. What were your initial reactions when watching the audience talking about your film in the feedback video?
I felt a little bit unreal to see many people from different cultural backgrounds talking about and connecting with the film. It was such a beautiful and heart-fulfilling moment for the filmmaker.
6. When did you realize that you wanted to make films?
When I saw the colorful iconic butterfly pattern on the embroidery and heard about the ancestral meaning Miao people give to this pattern, I especially realized that this is a disappearing cultural phenomenon, I wanted to make a film to capture what is still there.
I think I’ve always wanted to be a content creator since very little, and I think making films is one of the mediums as a way of output. It was when I studied cinematic art in college that I realized that filmmaking has become another medium of mine to tell stories.
7. What film have you seen the most in your life?
Director Ang Lee’s films, such as Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon, and Life of Pi.
8. What other elements of the festival experience can we and other festivals implement to satisfy you and help you further your filmmaking career?
More promotional experience like this would be fabulous.
9. You submitted to the festival via FilmFreeway. How has your experiences been working on the festival platform site?
I felt very grateful to be able to experience some very authentic film festivals that truly respect and honor the filmmakers such as the AmDocs. A lot of film festivals in FilmFreeway only send you a result notification and even if the film got selected, oftentimes there seems to be no festival gathering or showcase. I hope there could be more participation and involvement opportunities.
10. What is your favorite meal?
Smoked Salmon Bagel
11. What is next for you? A new film?
I have been co-editing another cultural documentary, co-producing a historical drama and preparing for the U.S. visa application. After this, I’m planning to start my next documentary.