Film Review: Small Talk | Ri Chang Dui Hua (2016).

Small Talk

All Rights Reserved to the rightful owners. Small Talk | Ri Chang Dui Hua Press Still 2. CinemAsia Film festival 2018.

Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ – 5/5.

Author: Feargal Agard | Runtime: 88 min. | Director: Hui-Chen Huang | Year: 2016.

Such a compassionate documentary film! Small Talk | Ri Chang Dui Hua (2016) is the story of a daughter who wants to break through the thick wall that her lesbian mother has build around her. Through the daughter’s intimate ways we get to know more about her life and that of her mother and how gay and women subjects are treated and avoided. Eventually we witness heartfelt discussions that reveal much pain, but also the beauty of new beginnings.

Small Talk | Ri Chang Dui Hua is a documentary story about a family that has lived like strangers under one roof for decades and they almost never talk to each other. The mother of the Taiwanese documentary filmmaker Hui-chen Huang, used to earn a living as a spirit guide for the deceased at their funerals. She was never at home, always out and about with her girlfriends instead and her daughter always knew that her mother is a lesbian. Hui-chen Huang now goes to great lengths to attempt to comprehend her mother. One day Hui-chen finally gathers up the courage to sit her down and make her mother talk. But is she ready to hear what she has to say?

Small Talk | Ri Chang Dui Hua was directed by Hui-chen Huang. In essence it was a film that took half a life-time to make. From a young age Hui-chen Huang would record her mother and when she finally decided to make a documentary film out of it, she combined the footage from the past with the more recent video footage to form the story that she has been wanting to tell for so long. The documentary truly opens up a new world for us. One that manages to be of a universal and cultural significance. There are certain things people seem to respect and leave as it is, because they feel that it’s not their business. But some things are cultural and accepted, because it had always been like that some say. Nonetheless we are faced with an extremely intimate revelation of emotions that end up in a form of atonement. The most amazing thing of it all, is that the director never really went to school nor did she go to film school. She has taught herself through literature and TV and managed to make a powerful documentary film. What an example she is and what a hero! Many filmmakers who went to film school and struggle to make a film could envy her.

The documentary focuses on the mother mostly, but also on Hui-chen Huang and her lovely young daughter who is about six years old. The mother is closed and doesn’t speak much at home and she tends to her own private life. When she’s with her lesbian friends or with a lover we get to witness a total opposite. The mother is very lively, funny and talks a lot more than she does at home. She has great relationships with her friends and they love her back. We even get some inside stories about who she has dated and what their relationships used to be like. Hui-chen Huang is married with her husband and her mother lives in with them. She takes care of her beautiful little daughter who at times seems to be the biggest thing that connects her with her mother. Who’d blame her mother, her grandchild is absolutely adorable and quite good at making jokes. Seeing the family during their normal daily routines says so much about them. Words are not needed. It also reveals the hidden love that they do have for each other but never speak about, but it’s the family dynamics that grab your attention and acquaints you with them. Causing you to feel for these people who mean so much to each other.

The cinematography is of good quality, but can be quite plain in the sense that it’s not the type of documentary where cinematographic experimentation is needed to enhance the experience. It is a portrait of a family and a quest to connection and answers. The images therefore serve the purpose of telling the story as it is. The documentary largely consists out of HD imagery of Hui-chen Huang being filmed or filming her mother. Here and there footage recordings from the past filmed with an older Sony camera pass on the screen showing us Hui-chen’s and her mother’s past. It is a tremendous sight to see the images from the past as it is of great value sketching the story and the images that we need to get in our minds to connect the bits and pieces together. I kept thinking of how ‘rich’ -in the spiritual sense- Hui-chen Huang must be as I myself do not have such beautiful video images from the past of my family.

Small Talk | Ri Chang Dui Hua is a must-see documentary film. It entails an absolutely sincere quest for answers and connections between a lesbian mother and her daughter. Its message could only be received as enriching to yourself, because it displays how important it is to talk as family members. Express your thoughts and feelings in a most respectful way to each other and a lot of miscommunication and pain can be avoided.

Released as from the 14th of April 2017 (Taiwan).

Genre: Documentary | Languages: Min Nan (Taiwan) | Dutch Distributor: none yet. Seen at CinemAsia Film Festival 2018.

In regard to all pictures and trailer footage. All Rights Reserved to the rightful owners. Small Talk | Ri Chang Dui Hua Still 2. CinemAsia Film festival 2018.

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