My Mother’s Place (1990)
49 minutes 1990
My Mother's Place is an experimental documentary focusing on the artist's mother, a third-generation Chinese-Trinidadian who at 80 still has vivid memories of a history lost or quickly disappearing. She conveys these with a storytelling style and a frankness that is distinctly West Indian. A tape about memory, oral history, and autobiography, My Mother's Place interweaves interviews, personal narrative, home movies, and verité footage of the Caribbean to explore the formation of race, class, and gender under colonialism.
Rita Fung is the granddaughter of Chinese indentured labourers brought to Trinidad in the mid-19th century. My Mother's Place is an innovative documentary focusing on the stories of the artist's mother. Now eighty years old and living in Toronto, Rita Fung has vivid memories of a history lost or fast disappearing. She conveys these with a distinctly West Indian frankness and storytelling style.
My Mother's Place weaves interviews with Rita Fung and four women thinkers, an autobiographical narration, home movies and documentary footage of the Caribbean to explore the formation of consciousness of race, class and gender under colonialism.
“Snow falls from a grey sky, and the camera settles on a large detached house. In voice-over narration, Richard confesses that he had hoped to film his mother against a snowy backdrop because it seemed the perfect picture of exile. But the weather did not co-operate, so the snow was shot on another day. From the outset, Richard casts doubt on the authenticity of the visual, allowing his story to unfold in a context of uncertainty. What emerges is a loving portrait of Rita Fung, then eighty and living in Toronto, as a woman who grew up under colonialism and experienced an identity shift at the moment when Trinidad gained independence. Rita’s grandparents immigrated to Trinidad from China as indentured labourers in the mid-19th century. In My Mother’s Place, her storytelling genius is sset alongside the discussions of four feminist intellectuals, Richard’s autobiographical narration, and documentary footage of the Caribbean. The evidence accumulates. But it is full of contradictions. Rita is a compelling storyteller who skips from anecdote to anecdote. She is an empathy, who compassionately recalls the Jewish refugees who arrived, emaciated and traumatized, from the camps in Europe. She is a monarchist, a good colonial subject, who grows roses, and resembles the women in Good Housekeeping magazine. Toward the end of the video, Richard declares that his mother does not fit any image. She does not pass through is filter of analysis and theory. She’s different from these fragments: too contradictory, too whole. A wonderful subplot is introduced through the Fung’s home movies. The blurred, out-of-focus quality of the footage is like a reverie that introduces us to Richard as a young boy in Trinidad. The range of activities open to Richard as a child-the luxurious feminine pleasure of playing dress-up, dancing the twist, waving like the Queen of England, and generally skipping, swaying and giggling through life-expose the normative and restrictive definitions of masculinity. Like his mother, Richard points to the gaps in the formation of identity under colonialism-the lesson being that no picture is as straight as it seems.” (Kyo Maclear)