Sunday, February 03, 2019

Slamdance ’19: Roughly Delicate (short)

They could be characters in an Amy Tan novel, but with firearms. A group of Chinese immigrant women perform together in a traditional dance troupe and shoot together in their gun club. As a group, they develop camaraderie, physical coordination, a steady aim, and a sense of empowerment in Heqiuzi Wang’s fourteen-minute short documentary, Roughly Delicate, which screened during the 2019 Slamdance Film Festival.

They are of various ages, but they are all Chinese immigrants. Their participation in the dance group conforms to our stereotypes, but their shooting outings probably do not. They obviously enjoy their time at the indoor range, because it is a bonding experience. However, there is also a serious side to it, as well.

During the course of the short film, it becomes clear two events have dramatically shaped their relationship to guns. One was the LA Riots, in which Korean grocers lost their stores to the fires, but largely protected life and limb because they were sufficiently armed. The other event was the Tiananmen Square massacre, which demonstrated the worst-case scenario when the state holds monopoly ownership of firearms.

Of course, with rights come responsibilities, so the Roughly Delicate women duly attend firearm training courses. Yet, ironically, the leader of their dance ensemble appears to be a much more demanding disciplinarian. Regardless, the shooting dancers are all very charming in a down-to-earth way and for the most part, seem quite happy here in America. Honestly, the NRA should recruit them as spokespeople—ASAP.

Wang takes a quiet, observational approach, yet Roughly Delicate dramatically upends clichés, while celebrating diversity. There are some important takeaways in her film, but it is also quite a pleasant experience to spend time her subjects. Very highly recommended, Roughly Delicate should be programmed by many free-thinking film fests, following its screenings at the 2019 Slamdance Film Festival.