Laoga: a film by Ansiqi Li
As a 92 year-old Chinese widow with fading short-term memory, time dissolves for Xiaomei Zhou.
Laoga is a short documentary film about the current life and past memories of an elderly widow who grew up in Changde and went to live in Guanxi, a southern Chinese city in Hunan province.
Laoga means great-grandmother in Changde dialect, a variety of Southwestern Mandarin. As a result of the World War 2 Battle of Changde, Xiaomei Zhou 周小妹fled to the countryside, and having fallen in love at the time of the battle she decided to stay with her partner in Guanxi. Consequently, her destiny was totally changed and she never came back to the city of Changde again. As a 92 year-old widow with fading short-term memory Xiaomei Zhou struggles to understand the difference between reality and illusion.
Xiaomei Zhou was deeply influenced by Chinese traditional culture, but she was also a Christian and had her own thoughts about life and death.
Laoga uses interviews and observational footage to explore the issues of human memory, war, faith, traditional culture, death and poses the question to the audience: “When you are old, how do you face your everyday life?”
The idea for this documentary film originated with a memory I shared with my great-grandmother that took place in a village called Tieshan 铁山 (meaning Iron Mountain in Chinese).
When I was young my parents were busy with their work so they sent me to my great- grandmother’s home during the summer vacation. I am a great fan of watermelon so my mother gave money to my great-grandmother and asked her to buy watermelon every day. One day, there was a peddler who came to the village to sell his homemade green bean ice-cream.
My great-grandmother refused to buy me one even though I begged her to many times. She thought that if I had the ice-cream then I would waste the watermelon. I was extremely sad and cried.
As time goes by this memory fades both for me as well as my great-grandmother. She is getting old and she cannot remember things clearly. But a few years ago when she was in her 80s, there was a time she cried in front of me when I visited her. She said she suddenly remembered that she refused to let me have the ice-cream. She told me she felt guilty and ashamed.
I found my great-grandmother’s memory interesting: she could not remember most things clearly but some events which happened 20 years ago could jump into her mind and she could recall everything about them in detail.
So I made this film.