Logline: One year after her twin sister's death, 11-year-old Mai receives a fortune cookie that contains a meaningful message.
Interview with Writer/Director Sitora Takanaev
Original play written by Colton Dunham
Congratulations! Why did you make a film called PARTING?
I've always had a great interest in and attraction to literary works of magical realism (the fiction of Gabriel Marquez is a bit of an obsession), and when I read the original script that would become "Parting" I saw the potential for a magical realism style film.
Added to that, being an immigrant to the U.S. myself, as well as a mother (and a daughter), I felt that the story provided a way to connect these personal issues of family, motherhood, and the influence of an older culture with the kind of stylistic and narrative touches of magical realism that I was interested in working with.
Imagine I’m a member of the audience. Why should I watch this film?
While it deals in particular with a Chinese family in the U.S. I think the themes the film approaches are more universal; everyone has parents and was once a child, and most people have had to deal with grief and loss in some way, so I think an audience can relate to what the film's main character is feeling when she's confronting her parents or trying to figure out how to get her family past the tragedy they've experienced.
Visually and stylistically as well, I think "Parting" is very different than a lot of other short films out there; I'm definitely interested in a type of cinema that is more composed and visually arranged. We took particular care to arrange things in the frame and in each scene; everything from the color of the wardrobe to the color of the light, details in props and set design, the music choices and editing cues, it was all carefully worked on to give as much meaning to each element as possible.
For example, the mother's wardrobe changes through the film, and that is important. And the red that colors a late scene in the film, that means something and is an important element in Chinese culture.
How do personal and universal themes work in your film?
I'm not Chinese, but I still can relate to the way in which the characters are influenced their ancestors' stories in my film. I think a lot of people, no matter their country or culture, have myths or stories that get told and retold, passed down from generation to generation. They may have things about them that are particular to a family or a certain part of the world, but the themes are universal.
How have the script and film evolved over the course of its development and production?
When we first started, the script was a short play written by a film student that I had met. Over the course of a year, we expanded this to a longer, more elaborate script that could be a short film.
However, all through that time, I felt that something was missing that was needed to give the film a reality or a grounding in Chinese culture. It was only when I got my cast together that they were able to help us fill in the script with the sorts of much needed detail that we couldn't have possibly understood without their input.
What type of feedback have you received so far?
We're still somewhat early in the film's festival run, but the feedback we've gotten has been mostly positive. I've gotten a lot of good response to the cast, who are all non-actors, and we've gotten a lot of praise for the naturalness of their performances. Viewers have also loved the film's aesthetic qualities, it's photography and design, the puppet scene (!) and music.
It's a bit of an unusual fit for some shorts programs because of its length and unique style, but I think that viewers can see all of the close attention and work that went into it.
Has the feedback surprised or challenged your point of view?
I think as an artist you're always unsure about what you're making, you worry that it's pointless or that it'll be incomprehensible to anyone who can't read your thoughts, so when viewers see the film and get something out of it, if they tell me they liked a particular shot or scene, or a bit of music, or the handling of a prop, or the way the characters interact at a certain point, it's always enjoyable to hear.
I think any time someone reacts to the film, even negatively, if they don't understand something or think I should've done something differently, it helps me develop as a filmmaker.
What are you looking to achieve by having your film more visible on www.wearemovingstories.com?
I think part of the point of making something, a film or any work of art, is to have people see it. I always hoped that people would be touched by my film and that they'd see something in it that would connect with their own lives and experiences.
Any forum where the film can be shown gives me hope that it can connect with an audience, and that at least someone out there will be affected by it.
Who do you need to come on board (producers, sales agents, buyers, distributors, film festival directors, journalists) to amplify this film’s message?
I really just hope that more people will see the film and that more festivals will show it! I think that the more people that see it, the more positive feedback I'll get and the longer life the film will have!
What type of impact and/or reception would you like this film to have
My biggest hope is that viewers that see the film will connect with it on an emotional and personal level, that they'll see things in the film that reflect their own lives with their parents or their families.
What’s a key question that will help spark a debate or begin a conversation about this film?
I hope people would think about what it means to be a child, what it means to be a parent, how your ancestry affects your family, and how the stories we pass on can help shape who we are.
Would you like to add anything else?
I think that a lot of films that are made now are of a certain naturalistic style, or fit into a certain trend, but I'm hoping to be different. I'm interested in portraying realistic experiences, in making films about the real lives that people lead and the very real emotions they feel, but also in the poetic potential of the cinema.
I'm not interested in making films that are just "cool", or that you forget about after seeing them, but films that make you think and feel and that linger in your mind, that touch you with their story and all of the things that film has to offer.
What are the key creatives developing or working on now?
I have shot most of another short film, we still just have to shoot the first scene. Somehow it's also about an immigrant family in the U.S., this time about an adult son reconnecting with his mother that he hasn't seen since he was a child.
I also have another short script I'm in pre production on, about an elderly woman suffering from Alzheimer's who thinks she sees Greek gods around her. Finally, I'm trying to put together a feature based on some personal experiences, my memories as a child in Uzbekistan and my experiences with being a mother. It's a lot of work figuring out a feature, definitely more than a short film!