Mommy, What’s Wrong?

14 mins  16mm  color/b&w  1997

Available versions: 1) English, 2) Chinese subs

Producer/Director/Writer/Editor  Anita Chang

A young woman’s relationship to her mother and sense of personal history is revealed in an evocative docu-memoir composition of home movie footage, recordings and the subconscious thread of a recurring dream. Thoughts of immigration, motherhood, daughterhood and spirituality culminate in a cathartic relay of strength between mother and daughter. This strong emotional undertow conjures a desire to look deeper into the artifact, evidence and testimony of memory. (The Center for Asian American Media)


Artist Statement
This film barely happened. When I went to visit my mother in Massachusetts in the winter of 1997, we got into a big argument. This interview took place two hours before my flight back to San Francisco. Hence, this film was an experiment in the use of filmmaking as a tool for searching out and understanding one’s own personal and emotional history. In working with found footage, i.e., home movies, as personal artifact, and in the close and painstaking examination of each frame that was shot by my father and mother – thinking about its purpose at the time it was materialized – as daughter, I searched for clues to the past and imagine what could or might, or what was really happening to my mother (in front and behind the camera).

As the title suggests, the search for emotional strength from my mother entails an understanding of her as an individual, of the struggles she faced and still faces. For this piece, I chose to understand her within the framework of motherhood as an institution, and as an immigrant where political and social forces, such as western cultural imperialism, and colonialism, influenced her values and choices – values and choices that are not mine and are frequently the source of tension, and, ultimately, of our distance. Dr. Paula Kaplan writes in her book Barriers Between Women, “The daughter whose mother is a source of strength, an ally with whom she can discuss alternatives and uncertainties without fearing either her mother’s perfection or her mother’s collapse, can find in her a model of strength and independence.” It is these fears that so many daughters, including myself, are preoccupied with, and which serve in part to maintain this distance.

Cinema Project/Portland OR, Women Make Waves Film Festival, House, Home and Homeland in Diasporic and Exilic Cinemas/UC Berkeley, U. Wisconsin Madison Cinematheque, Chicago Filmmakers, SF Cinematheque, Kearny Street Workshop, Locus Arts, Boston Tour (MIT, Emerson, Museum School of Fine Art, Tufts U., U. Mass in Amherst), Oakland Asian American Film & Video Showcase, Rice U. Asian American Film & Literature Festival, New York City Donnell Media Center, Boulder Asian, Portugal Int’l Documentary, Madrid Experimental, Toronto Asian, Vancouver Asian, Hungarian Multicultural, SF Exploratorium, New York Int’l Asian, Marin Shorts (Third Prize Doc), Atlanta Film Festival, Chicago Asian, Ann Arbor, Boston Asian, San Francisco Int’l Asian, Women of Color/Pacific Film Archive, Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, Film Arts Festival of Independent Cinema, KTOP-Oakland Cable TV, KRON/Bay TV, Women of Vision/KCSM-TV, Free Speech TV

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