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Mama

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Mama (1990)

89 min - - 1 May 1990
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Often cited as China’s first independent feature film, this low-budget drama, filmed largely in the director’s Beijing apartment, depicts the life of a single mother (a topic considered taboo at the time) caring for her mentally challenged son. Shot with a documentary aesthetic that includes interviews with families of mentally challenged persons, the film helped kick-start the Sixth Generation of filmmakers (including Wang Xiaoshuai and Jia Zhangke) and their ethos of employing documentary realism to depict the true conditions of contemporary China.

Director:  Zhang Yuan
Stars:  Qing Yang

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Often cited as China’s first independent feature film, this low-budget drama, filmed largely in the director’s Beijing apartment, depicts the life of a single mother (a topic considered taboo at the time) caring for her mentally challenged son. Shot with a documentary aesthetic that includes interviews with families of mentally challenged persons, the film helped kick-start the Sixth Generation of filmmakers (including Wang Xiaoshuai and Jia Zhangke) and their ethos of employing documentary realism to depict the true conditions of contemporary China.


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Language:  普通话
Release Date:  1 May 1990

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Technical Specs

Runtime:  1 h 29 min

Often cited as China’s first independent feature film, this low-budget drama, filmed largely in the director’s Beijing apartment, depicts the life of a single mother (a topic considered taboo at the time) caring for her mentally challenged son.

Mama is a 1990 Chinese film directed by Zhang Yuan. Zhang Yuan’s directorial debut, Mama is now considered a seminal film in the history of Chinese independent cinema, and by extension, as a pioneering film of the Sixth Generation of which Zhang is a member. Shot on an extreme budget within Zhang Yuan’s apartment, Mama, follows the story of a mother and her grown mentally challenged son.

The film focuses on a librarian struggling to raise her mentally handicapped son in modern-day Beijing while at the same time dealing with an absent and unresponsive husband. The story garnered much criticism from state-censors, who found the film too dark.

While the film was originally written to end on the dour note of the mother euthanizing her son, director Zhang Yuan eventually opted for a more open-ended and ambiguous conclusion. [Wikipedia]