China’s Women Filmmakers question societal norms
China has numerous skillful female directors, but it is very rare to see them reach runaway box office successes.
The movies, ‘Hi, Mom’ and ‘Sister’ changed this notion and shed light on a different type of movie potential which is neither slapstick comedy or has commercialized superhero concepts, but rather a more in-depth examination of societal issues.
The two movies have received abundant praise for setting a precedent in the filmmaking industry in China for women. The movies were intellectual explorations around general problems that women in China face every day in family life and the constant struggle of maintaining career ambitions along with it. Another concept showed the complex relationship between a mother and daughter.
These two movies represent the influx of movies created by female directors, which are challenging the norm of commercialized film markets. China’s filmmaking industry is one of the largest in the world, however, it is a hefty task to be highlighted and receive the topmost approval and praise.
The dynamic of the market is changing, and like these movies, many other films show that one can reach the top of the filmmaking industry without following the norm of filmmaking in China. The significance of this new wave of films is that they stand out as distinct and different because they center around ideas and concepts that are dismissal of the one-dimensional female characters usually viewed in commercial films. An example of such movies is the lovelorn maiden or the ‘flower vase’, which is a derogatory term used for a pretty face in China.
Ying Zhu, an expert of Chinese film and writer of the anticipated book “Hollywood in China: Behind the Scenes of the World’s Largest Movie Market.” gave her view about the upcoming production of films by Chinese women, “The latest breed of women’s films are more subtle, nuanced, and realistic,”
These movies gave gained their viewership due to the connections with the character’s experience that hit too close to home. The movies express experiences and problems that resonate with the Chinese women deeply, thus the films fare well in a country where activism and strict reactions are implemented to counter the rise of feminist ideologies. Currently, women are still less in number as directors of commercial films, but times are changing and several movies in the past years have gained recognition and appraisal.
Hi, Mom was released in February and is directed by Jia Ling. The movie sold domestic tickets up to $840 million, getting it the top-grossing film in China in 2021 and the second-highest-earning film ever in China. The movie is about a woman named Ms. Jia whose mother faces a deadly accident and winds up severely injured. The woman travels backward in time and finds a bond of friendship with her mother while trying to make amends.
Sister is directed by Yin Ruoxin and written by You Xiaoying. The story is about a young woman who meets a complicated decision after her parents pass away in a car accident: proceed with her dreams of becoming a doctor or become a guardian to her 6-year olf brother. The movie gave an insight into the unfair expectations imposed on women from society and the societal norm: always expect family as a priority for women.
The drama also explores the one-child policy and the culture that is desperate for male offspring to the extent that they would do anything for a baby boy. In the drama, the girl is forced to fake a disability by her parents for her baby brother to be allowed to come into the world.