CHN | 12 minutes | 2018
Drama short film by Yixuan Li
Starring Lili Zheng
For copyright purposes, the film requires a password for viewing.
Chinese title: 完美的童话
A woman who spent her entire life playing the roles of a daughter, a wife, and a mother, at the end of her life recalled her childhood dream of the sea…
CineAsian Films (CAF): What inspired you to explore this story about the life of a woman and her dreams?
Yixuan Li: This story is composed of different snippets or scenes from different moments in a woman’s life. The scene in which the woman cuddles the cat is actually the starting point of my whole writing. It came from my own experience with my mom.
One day, I noticed my mom, who was always afraid of furry animals, talking and playing with my cat at a time when I was busy with my work and essentially ignoring her. That moment was a real trigger. I began to question why I always turn a deaf ear to my mom’s needs and how she could be okay with it. This inspired me to create a very “general” female character we women can relate to on some level, and that’s how I started writing this story.
CAF: We love that the film had no dialogue and was very visual. Did you find making a film with no dialogue difficult? What were some of the biggest challenges you faced while making this film?
Li: I made this short as part of my application for film schools. At the time, I had no filmmaking experience. With a basic understanding that film is a medium formed by sound and image, I challenged myself by deciding not to let the characters talk, which underscored the idea of women not being heard.
It was not difficult to dream up the silent scenes during the writing process, which honestly seems problematic when reflecting on it now. Being “visual” requires that the plots and the characters’ actions be strong enough to deliver the message the filmmaker try to convey. You definitely don’t want to use the actions that have been used thousands of times before. I don’t feel that the actions I chose for the story are overused, but they could be more unique or precise. And how to achieve that clarity is the hardest part for me.
CAF: What do you hope people can take away from Flawless Fairytale?
Li: Hopefully the audience won’t feel like they have the same life as the woman in the story. It’s kind of tragic. But I do believe many of us can relate to being in a similar situation where we were taught what is proper for a man or a woman. For the woman in the story, her mom’s lessons that women are better tailors than sailors is the start of her stereotypical life. That’s when her imagination for what’s possible in her life becomes narrow to the domestic roles of a wife and mom.
I hope her failure to prove her self-worth through her marriage, her child, or her female identity to be thought-provoking to people. I also hope people can get some strength from the ending, when she finds the courage to march to the sea, even though the shadow of the past restrains never totally disappear—a mermaid never equals a real sailor.
CAF: Have you been working on anything new and exciting?
Li: I’m in a gap year for a MFA degree in film production and recently I’ve been working on new scripts for my projects next year. Right now, I am writing a story about a boy who tries to figure out how to deal with bullying and how he eventually saves himself from the idea of retaliating in revenge.
Flawless Fairytale is one of the many great projects shared with CineAsian Films through our submissions process. If you’d like to join them, submit your film.
Director, Writer: Yixuan Li
Producer: Haoran Du, Mu Wang
Cinematographers: Qiaoyang Hu, Lingo Lin
Editor: Xintian Zhao
Also starring: Jiaqi Liang, Zikang Xiao