Mulberry Child (NR)

Documentary 85 September 7, 2012
By Nick Schager
China's 1960s-1970s Cultural Revolution reverberates through generations in Mulberry Child, a documentary -- based in part on Jian Ping's autobiographical book of the same name -- whose poignancy is lessened by its awkward formal devices. Jian's childhood was one of hardships, with her government official father unjustly accused of being a traitor and her mother vilified and persecuted. Written and directed by Susan Morgan Cooper, the film is most evocative in its portrait of the unwarranted suffering wrought by Mao Zedong's communist rule. A reliance on heavy-handed dramatic recreations, however, diminishes her story's immediacy, especially in light of the fact that her non-fiction interviews with Jian and her family are often gut-wrenching. Structural messiness is a persistent problem, be it multiple narrators or flip-flopping between Jian's past adversity and present tensions with her jet-setting American-born daughter Lisa, which are rooted in the emotional reticence that Jian learned from her stoic mother and passed down to her own child. It's an intriguing thread that's unfortunately given only cursory treatment, not to mention handled via mother-daughter conversations clearly, and clumsily, staged for the camera.
Susan Morgan Cooper Jacqueline Bisset, Lisa Xia, Jody Choi, Bruce Akoni Yong, Christine Chiang, Yang Juan Xue, Vanessa Chiu, Charlotte Kong, Kayley Kong, Megan Kong Susan Morgan Cooper, Jian Ping Susan Morgan Cooper Independent Pictures


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