YIDFF 2011 New Asian Currents
Self-Portrait with Three Women
An Interview with Zhang Mengqi (Director)

A Dialogue Across Generations, Between Mother And Daughter

Q: In the film there is a scene with an inflated condom. It resembles a woman’s breast, and in the end it breaks. You use many other blunt, visual expressions to symbolize sexuality, and I was wondering if you might have some hesitation or resistance to sex.

ZM: That scene is part of a dance I once choreographed and performed. When I was little, boys and girls were very interested in condoms, and there were even kids who played by blowing them up like balloons. But that’s all they were, balloons. Their sexual nuance was beyond our imaginations. In my mother and grandmother’s time, there was an attempt to hide information about sex, a trend that still remained when I was young. In the film there is a scene where a girl helps me place sanitary napkins on a red cloth, and she understood what they were. It’s not as if she learned this from her parents; she must have picked it up somewhere. Now, there are many ways of acquiring sexual knowledge through TV and the Internet. The taboo can no longer be hidden, no matter how much one tries to hide it. I wanted to show this situation visually in these scenes.

Q: Regarding your relationship with your mother, what kind of environment did you grow up in?

ZM: There is a scene in the film of a self-reflection letter. My mother speaks about how she and other adults had to write them during the Cultural Revolution. Even though I wasn’t raised during that time, I was also forced to write such letters. I had to obey my mother. But, when I received my acceptance to university, I was able to stand up to her for the first time. I felt that I had become free, and started to run around with a boyfriend. When my mother learned of this, she scolded me sternly, “Don’t get full of yourself just because you got into university.” I fought hard against her, and was able to assert my desire to stand on my own feet. Things that had seemed taboo until then were no longer. As a result, my mother started to see me as a grown woman. She saw this film and empathized with how I felt under her strict discipline, before I was able to assert myself. For me, this has been one of the greatest fruits of making this film.

Q: There is a dance scene where you project images of your mother onto your body. I felt as if you were struggling to bury your generational gap, but why did you use this method to do so?

ZM: By projecting my mother’s image onto myself, I wanted to express a dialogue between two women of different generations. Even though I would hate to follow their path in life, I can’t sever my relationship with my mother and grandmother. We can’t choose our mothers and grandmothers. Before making this film, my mother existed only as a mother and my grandmother only as a grandmother. But now, I am able to see them objectively as women who have lived in different times. My grandmother does calisthenics everyday to train her body. I am moved by how she stays so forward-looking, even as she gets older. And now I share an equal relationship with my mother as friends. I think we have come to accept each other as independent women.

(Compiled by Koshimizu Emi)

Interviewers: Koshimizu Emi, Chiba Minami / Interpreter: Higuchi Yuko / Translator: Kyle Hecht
Photography: Katsumata Erika / Video: Hanawa Shun / 2011-10-07