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Directed by Yang Sun, S. Leo Chiang

Filmmakers in attendance.

When Chinese artist Maleonn realizes that his father Ma Ke, an accomplished Peking Opera director, is suffering from Alzheimer’s, he invites him to collaborate on his next project – a magical, autobiographical stage performance featuring mechanical puppets called “Papa’s Time Machine.”

OUR TIME MACHINE is a moving meditation on art, mortality, and family. The documentary centers on Maleonn, a famous Chinese conceptual artist, as he grapples with the advancing dementia afflicting his father, Ma Ke. Ma Ke is a renowned artist in his own right, having served as the artistic director of the Shanghai Chinese Opera. The documentary documents Maleonn’s ambitious effort to mount a tribute to his dad, “Papa’s Time Machine,” a time-travel puppet show told at human-sized scale.

OUR TIME MACHINE tracks the artistic progress of “Papa’s Time Machine,” depicting artisans giving life to Maleonn’s striking steampunk designs and eye-popping shadow play. But the film’s primary focus is on the relationship between father and son. Ma Ke’s story is emblematic of artists whose dreams were snuffed out by the Chinese Communist Party in the 1960s. Post-Cultural Revolution, Ma Ke threw himself into theater work, peaking as a skilled orchestrator of traditional Peking opera, while leaving little time for his family. Maleonn’s resentment of Ma Ke’s lengthy absences during his childhood vie with his filial love for a man who’s rapidly slipping away.

OUR TIME MACHINE explores both the enduring power and the limits of art. As innovative an artist as Maleonn is, no one can create a work that can truly recapture what’s been lost to the ravages of time. But in honoring Ma Ke’s life, Maleonn, working through his agonizing creative process, finds something in the realm of the possible: love and meaning in the present. —Ryan Wu

Co-presented with Community Partners: Chinese American Museum

Director, Producer: Yang Sun, S. Leo Chiang
Co-Director: Shuang Liang
Director of Photography: Yang Sun, Shuang Liang
Editor: Bob Lee
Composer: Paul Brill
Executive Producer: Jean Tsien
Co-Producer: Violet Feng
Sound Designer, Re-Recording Mixer: Joe Milner

Dates & Times


Downtown Independent

Sun, May 5
12:00 pm