Yang Sun and S. Leo Chiang’s award winning documentary, Our Time Machine, which premiered at 2019 Tribeca Film Festival, comes to over 35 theaters across the nation on September 11th in the virtual cinema space.
The film, which won the Best Cinematography Award at the Tribeca Film Festival, is a personal and intimate look at Chinese artist Maleonn (Ma Liang) as he sets out to stage an ambitious performance piece about time and memory when his father, the former artistic director of the Shanghai Chinese Opera Theater, is diagnosed with dementia.
Our Time Machine has won multiple awards including Best Documentary – 2019 CAAMFest; Grand Jury Award, International Documentary Feature – 2019 LAAPFF; and Best International Director – 2019 Doc Edge.
43-year-old Maleonn is one of China’s most influential conceptual artists today. His father, Ma Ke, was the artistic director of the Shanghai Chinese Opera Theater. After being humiliated and forbidden from working for a decade during the Cultural Revolution, Ma Ke immersed himself in theater. The mysterious excitement of Ma Ke’s creative world inspired the young Maleonn, but his father’s absences stoked early feelings of resentment.
When Ma Ke is diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, Maleonn pours everything into an ambitious new theater project: “Papa’s Time Machine,” a visually stunning time-travel adventure told with human-sized puppets. At the play’s heart are autobiographical scenes inspired by Maleonn’s memories with his father. He hopes this will bring them together artistically and personally.
With enthusiasm both domestically and from abroad, the play shows signs of a promising future. But Ma Ke’s condition deteriorates. Maleonn is torn between the original goal to honor his father and the pressure towards commercial success. Ma Ke struggles to contribute to the play, and barely recognizes the play when it is completed.
Facing his father’s painful decline, Maleonn becomes more aware of life’s complexities. There are no effortless masterpieces or simple solutions. And there’s no traveling back in time to retrieve what has been lost. There is however, the relationship that has developed with co-director Tianyi. He proposes to her, ready to become a partner and a father, and to carry on forward with a new outlook on his art and life.