Reenacting Her Mother’s Final Days, a Director Found Solace

Li Dongmei turned her childhood trauma into the award-winning movie “Mama.”

One fall night in 1992, Li Dongmei’s mother died after giving birth to her fifth daughter.

When 12-year-old Li came home from school, she saw her mother lying still on the mat in the main room, her body, hands, and nails covered with blood. She washed her mom’s ice-cold body and changed her clothes.

In the 27 years since, Li has felt her trust in the world collapse. As she lived with fear and anxiety, the traumatic loss followed her like a shadow.

Until, in 2019, Li directed the film “Mama.” Looking back at the final seven days of her mom’s life, she used the film to tell her 12-year-old self: “Don’t be afraid.”

Last October, “Mama” won the Fei Mu Award for best film at the Pingyao International Film Festival, held in northern China. Then this February, Li became the first Chinese director to win the Ingmar Bergman International Debut Award at the Gothenburg Film Festival in Sweden. Calling the movie “pure cinema,” the jury statement said: “The spectator is plunged into an immersive, sensual, and meditative experience — as much as the art of cinema can ever hope for.”

For Li, the film is a way to remember and bid farewell to her mother, as well as consolation and reconciliation for herself. The girl who once refused to grow up has finally started to do so. Continue to read the full article here

– This article originally appeared on Sixth Tone.