It can often be observed that the authors of documentaries in the first films they make choose the Ich form and make personal films either about themselves or about their family members. It often happens that after a great debut when they shoot that initial personal story from their own life, they are left, let’s call it, without ammunition and the next films turn out to be much weaker. Time will tell what the next films of Chinese feature debutant Dongmei Li will be, but she also chose Ich form for her debut, which she presented during the author’s week in Venice, but for the shooting of a feature film. So even though “Mama” is a feature film, it acts more like a documentary and has the real vibe of some essayistic documentary filmed in long shots with a static camera in an isolated village in a Chinese province deep in the mountains.
The plot of this autobiographical documentary takes place sometime in the 1990s, when the author herself grew up there, as if trying to evoke moments in her life as she remembers it. And not just any moments, but a week of her life when she was still a child and she really offers “Mom” a real time travel. And this film could also be classified in the Slow Cinema subcategory, because the story unfolds really slowly and as the author of the documentary follows his protagonists as they do their daily chores and live their daily lives, Lee uses the same technique. Everything here will lead to a crucial moment in the finale and a moment that in reality marked the life and growing up of the author, who seemed to be trying to capture real life as she remembers it.
Long walks of kids in the mountains to school, grandparents who constantly cook and eat something, dad who works in some distant city and mom in advanced pregnancy who still also has to work to feed a large family. However, the focus of this somewhat meditative drama is the trauma buried somewhere deep in the man, and it is interesting how Lee initially really planned to make a documentary about the place where she grew up. But when she realized that none of the people who lived there more than a quarter of a century ago were gone, she decided on a feature form that many would think was a documentary.