World Premiere: IDFA 2016
Women, Sexuality, Society, China
The Netherlands / Germany
52′ | 80′
Muyi Film in Coproduction with Kobalt & ZDF Arte
An intimate portrait women of different generations in Beijing today who discover their sexuality and are immersed in a personal struggle to take control of their lives in a rapidly-changing society dogged by tradition. The film concentrates on two main characters: the older Xiao (50) who was widowed several years ago and is currently trying to create a new life for herself, and the 32-year-old writer Wen Wen. She is what is officially known as a ‘leftover’, a term used in China since 2007 for single, childless women over 27. They are considered a social problem because, despite the fact that many are highly educated and attractive, today’s Chinese males fear their strength and intellect. Sexual psychologist Hongli Zhen, an expert on recent developments in Chinese society provides commentary and context. She gives sex workshops that encourage women –including our main characters – to see their sexuality differently, and use techniques that make them happy. Hongli is our guide through the world of today’s China’s sexual revolution.
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Narrative thread: In the film we show Xiao’s past and watch her fantasizing and preparing for a trip to Europe: we see her practicing her English by watching Hollywood classics like Gone with the Wind and how she fills out and submits her visa application in English. Last time, her visa application was rejected, so she’s a bit nervous. Will she succeed in making her dream come true this time? She longs for a new love, but has no idea how to find one, and doesn’t really believe it’s possible – but the longing is there. She’s very shy, but her friend, now happily married in Australia, and her son, help her. We follow the Skype conversations with her friend and see the pictures she shows Xiao of her second marriage, and see how she tries to persuade Xiao to sign up for an international dating site. Her son will help her out with the computer, because Xiao doesn’t understand computers very well and underestimates herself and her abilities. We witness her conversations with her son about her search for happiness. The dialogue that emerges reveals the generation gap. Her son has been going out with a girl for a long time. She tries to advise him against marrying too young – contrary to tradition; he should enjoy life first and develop his potential as much as he can.
Most of all, she wants to ask Hongli for advice, one on one. She has all kinds of questions about her own sexuality since Hongli confronted her during the sex workshop about how she’s too young to have lost all sexual feelings. Since then, Xiao’s been thinking – she no longer sees sex as something purely functional.
What makes Xiao happy? Will she find a new love? How will the people around her react to her plans – after all, she’s a widow? Will she dare to abandon her duty of love, her unconditional dedication to her parents? And will the new freedom truly make her happy? Or will her past and her environment get in the way of her happiness? In essence, sexuality is about a woman’s freedom to choose how to live; it defines your identity freeing you from bowing to social conventions and allows you to express your own unique self. How will Xiao find a way through this after the turmoil of her marriage?
FESTIVALS & AWARDS
2016 International Documentary Festival Amsterdam, Netherlands
2017 International Women’s Film Festival, Creteil, France
2017 Planete Doc Review, Warsaw, Poland
2017 Human Rights and Arts Film Festival, Melbourne, Australia
2017 Docs Barcelona, Barcelona, Spain