Mechanical puppets, a time machine and the concept of memory came together to illustrate the story of a close father-son relationship during the screening of the award-winning documentary, “Our Time Machine” at Long Beach State Thursday night.
The Chinese documentary follows a famous artist in Shanghai and his father who was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s.
The story of Maleonn and Ma Ke, the son and father in the film, is one that co-director Leo Chiang hopes can help those who suffer from Alzheimer’s.
“[The film] is a very powerful, personal story about a father-son relationship that I can relate to,” said third-year film major Matthew Alcala.
The film follows the main character, Maleonn, as he struggles to cope with his father’s, Ma Ke, disease, while also working to create a play called “Papa’s Time Machine.”
The play used life-sized mechanical puppets to tell the story of a son who builds a time machine in order to bring back childhood memories to his forgetful father.
The project in the film posed several challenges for Maleonn, including getting enough money to fund it. These meticulously handcrafted puppets along with the rest of the elaborate set design took over two years to finish.
However, he continued to press on and create because this play was more than just a project to him. It also fulfilled a promise Maleonn made to himself as a small boy – to professionally collaborate with his father.
Ma Ke had spent many years dedicating his life to directing traditional Peking Opera performances, and Maleonn had a desire to work with him in a theatrical piece.
With recurring themes of time, memory, and mortality running through the film, it explores the emotional turmoil that people experience as their loved ones grow old and lose their memories.
“We humanize a family coping with Alzheimer’s in a way … that will hopefully get people to pay attention to that more even as they enjoy the relationship between the father and son,” said Chiang about his hopes for the film’s reception by audiences.