This is a reflection I wrote on the spot with a pen and paper (so old-fashioned, I know) after seeing my first film of the 2017 True/False Film Festival in Columbia, MO. The film was called Still Tomorrow and you can read a synopsis below if that matters to you.
Yu Xiuhua was raised to hope for little from her life in the rural Chinese province of Hubei. At 19, Xiuhua’s mother encouraged her to marry a man nearly twice her age, fearful no one else would accept a wife with Xiuhua’s condition — cerebral palsy. But as her 20th anniversary approaches, Xiuhua’s poetry goes viral, and she becomes the voice of a rising feminist movement throughout China. Director Fan Jian’s deeply affecting portrait traces an empowered woman coming to terms with the complications of finding her own identity in the midst of becoming a celebrity. As she balances those in her family, including her husband, who expected too little of her with the pressures of newly found allies expecting too much, Xiuhua learns to define herself in her own words.
It’s strange to see a film in silence, walk to a coffee shop in silence and then process said film – which was largely about words – also in silence. It’s just not something that we do often, but there’s a clarity in silence. A clarity that can break through the noise of other people’s thoughts.
So few films or books are written about poets. There are many of poetry, of its form and styles, histories and champions, but few about the poets themselves.
And they are such strange people.
People who pry open their cages and turn their heads toward the sight of their own writhing souls, as if they had thought to find a wounded creature instead of a part of themselves to free.
When they do the unthinkable – show this treasure to others – most can’t verbalize what makes it so special, when it is.
I think I know.
I think there is a clarity there, pure and vulgar, confusing and mysterious.
Those of us who have seen our own creatures and set them free live in a strange world of contradictions. We see with open eyes, but it does us little good in the places where we live our daily lives.
We touch a divinity that is at the final depths of our reach and our eyes turn amber with the shadow of it.
Others read the words and catch a glimpse of something ahead, something they could still reach and they are inspired while all it can do for us is keep us breathing.
Who is she?
The woman with the spiders in her hair?
They weave slowly webs of dream and of vision.
She picks a spider away from its work and considers it in its ugliness.
She traces its legs and wonders at the eyes which reflect her own like a crystal prism.
She thinks if she doesn’t like what she sees that she will smash it there
on the table.
The spider trusts her so.
But she sees something in those kaliediscope eyes that is bound to her.
And so she places it back in its web
to weave another dream.