Oxhide II — April 11, 2010
The best film I saw at the 2009 Vancouver Film Festival was this realtime chronicle of the director Liu Jiayin and her parents preparing, cooking, and eating dumplings. It consists of only nine shots, with each setup spaced 45 degrees clockwise from the last. This structure doesn’t make the film feel quite as rigid as it sounds, as Liu varies the position of the camera vertically: table height, over the shoulder, on the floor, etc. It’s a film about a process, sure, but one that elevates everyday activities to the level of ritual and tradition. Not a documentary, or an exercise in verité “realism”, but a wholly scripted, formalized film that nevertheless feels as relaxed and effervescent as anything I’ve ever seen.
Added April 14, 2018:
I was kind of afraid to see this again, afraid that the one time I saw it, at a festival, knowing nothing about it, with Liu Jiayin in attendance, had overrated it in my memory. I shouldn’t have been. I loved it just as much as I did back in 2009. One of the best films of the 21st century.
607 — October 6, 2010
Commissioned by The Opposite House, a hotel in Beijing, Liu Jiayin and her parents checked in and made this short film in their room. A plastic fish, manipulated by Liu’s father, with only his hands visible, swims in the water and encounters some mushrooms, a cloudy sky and a fish hook. The mushrooms are played by Liu’s mother while Liu herself is the sky and the hook. It’s a marvelous bit of silliness that conveys all the warmth of a family at play.