Often in “All About My Sisters,” Chinese filmmaker Wang Qiong’s documentary portrayal of her family, you might forget that what you are watching is filtered through a camera. Over a span of seven years, Wang filmed his parents, siblings and loved ones from inside the emotional thicket of their lives, capturing moments of piercing and private intimacy. His approach gives a film bristling with a kind of family resentment that generally only emerges behind closed doors.
There’s a lot to justify this bitterness, starting with the fact that Wang’s younger sister, Zhou Jin, was abandoned as a newborn before being picked up and then given to an uncle for her to raise. . It was in the 1990s, when the combination of China’s one-child policy and widespread cultural preference for sons had tragic consequences. As we learn during the film’s epic (but incredibly quick) three-hour arc, Jin is one of the many stories of abandoned babies, selective abortions, and female infanticide that haunt the story of Wang’s family.
Wang is neither a poised observer nor a formal interviewer, but an active participant in the scenes she captures, often intervening quietly behind her hand-held camera. “Have you ever thought induced abortion was horrible for little girls? She asks her older sister, Wang Li, whose husband is desperate for a male heir. Li’s response is simple but profound: “The world is horrible for us too. Every move is a risk. Sometimes Wang’s candor can be unsettling: I’ve questioned the ethics of her unflattering portrayal of Jin, who is seen as cruel to her toddler, as if replaying her own traumas. In moments like this, “All About My Sisters” bafflingly oscillates between the personal and the political, revealing how little separated the two are.
All about my sisters
Unclassified. In Mandarin, with subtitles. Duration: 2 hours 54 minutes. In theaters.