2000 / 25 Minutes
Chinese / English / Subtitled
NTSC / Stereo / Color / B&W / Betacam SP video
Distributed by:


Mother/Land, the second in Ma’s Xin Lu project, is a meditation on the separations and departures that have shaped the maker's identity, his family, the city of Hong Kong where he grew up, and the Chinese Diaspora in which he now wanders. This experimental video takes off from a series of interviews Ma conducted with his mother before and after her departure from Hong Kong in 1996. Her reflections on leaving the city that she has called home for over sixty years, and her subsequent adjustment to living in London forms the main narrative in the video. This event triggers an exploration of other departures—such as Ma's own journey back to the United States seventeen years ago, and the turnover of Hong Kong from British to Chinese rule in 1997. The unconventional relationship between Ma and his mother, defined by frequent separations and reunions, is contrasted with both western and Chinese discourses on motherhood, including Freudian and Lacanian psychoanalysis, (theories centered around the separation of mother and infant) their feminist revisions, and the classical Chinese texts Lie Nu Zhuan (The Book of Virtuous Women) by Liu Xiang and Nu Jie (Admonitions for Women) by Ban Zhao.

In exploring the use of motherhood as a metaphor in nationalism, some of these texts link Ma's family stories back to recent events in Chinese history. His alienation from and yearning for his family extends to a cultural level in his manifold relationship to the many Chinas - Mainland China, Hong Kong, Taiwan, and various overseas Chinese communities. The visual strategy for this video, inspired by ready-made jump cuts in Ma's super-8 home movies, parallels its narrative leaps between voices, time, and geographical locations. Faded film footage from the 1960s and '70s (filmed in Hong Kong) is intercut with contemporary video interviews (videotaped in London) and staged sequences (shot in Los Angeles). While the home movies present images of a typical Chinese middle class upbringing, circa 1967-74, a deliberately created lesbian subtext in the video points to other familial relations that are missing from the home movies. This sense of loss is expressed both metaphorically in Ma's failed attempt to re-create these missing scenes, and literally in a list of items lost during his mother’s move to London. Mother/Land portrays both the demise and dispersal of a traditional, heterosexual, Chinese family, and the formation of new diasporic relationships that are queer, trans-national, but no less Chinese.

Read more on Xin Lu Project