Tuesday, March 31, 2020

ReelAbilities ‘20: Angel’s Mirror (short)

Despite some statutory reform (considered to be part of the Olympic hosting PR spruce-up), disability is still widely stigmatized in Mainland China. That is why a young boy who is new to the neighborhood cannot imagine why a pretty girl never comes out to play. A connection may or may not be forged in Cheng Chao’s short film, Angel’s Mirror, which “screens” as part of this year’s ReelAbilities Film Festival New York—now presented online.

Ironically, the only audible dialogue in Mirror are spoken by the boy’s mother, who sends him out to play with half a Yuan, while the adults unpack. He soon falls in with a pack of similarly aged boys, who congregate around the courtyard’s ping pong tables. At first, he is confused when they all stop and turn to stare in unison, but he quickly realizes they are gawking at Angel. When he pulls out a pocket mirror to signal her, he starts to communicate and interact with her—but he still doesn’t fully get it.

It is impressive how much Cheng’s film conveys without dialogue. It is a sensitive, classy production that looks and sounds great, thanks to Liu Lianjie’s child’s eye cinematography and the warm, delicate musical selections licensed from Motohiro Nakashima. Hao Yiming and Zhang Zhijing are both wonderfully expressive young actors, as the new boy and Angel, respectively. However, Cheng’s conclusion doesn’t really hit the inspirational note he is going for. In fact, it is a bit baffling.

Still, if Mirror can alter Chinese viewers’ attitudes in a more inclusive direction (or those of anyone for the matter), then it will do some good. Recommended as a showcase for the two youthful co-stars (and a gentle but honest examination of Chinese social preconceptions), Angel’s Mirror “screens” this Saturday (4/4), as part of Shorts Program 2, at this year’s online ReelAbilities New York.