Descendants of the Past, Ancestors of the Future (2014) – By Philip Smolen

A young Chinese man (Albert M. Chan) goes to see his mother (Tina Chen) to discuss the upcoming birth of his daughter. The mother tells him of all of the Chinese traditions that he has to observe so that his child will not be cursed. The father-to-be is dismissive of his mother’s superstition and chastises her for them. He wants her to explain some of their family history and how it is possible that his grandfather could have possibly lived and worked thousands of miles away from his family for most of his life.

“Descendants of the Past, Ancestors of the Future” is a 16 minute short film from writer/director Albert M. Chan and it is a sweet and revealing insight into the complexities of family ties. Chan examines how the younger generation doesn’t understand or has time for the traditions of the past, but as they age and become parents themselves, they begin to understand and see their parents in an entire new light.

The acting is pitch perfect and Chan and Chen turn in wonderful performances. The film is also beautifully photographed and Chan’s careful compositions carry a wonderful emotional impact. “Descendants of the Past, Ancestors of the Future” is a superb look at family and family customs. It is also a beautiful cinematic tone poem.

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