Heading South


Reviewed by: Amber Wilkinson

Heading South
"The visual storytelling leads us to places beyond the script, where warring feelings lie."

Yuan Yuan's Heading South - which took home the Best Student US Short award at the recent online edition of Palm Springs Short Film Festival - may be just 13 minutes long but it packs in more story and emotional punch than some films manage in six times that. The feeling of truth stems, perhaps, at least in part from the fact the director says the film is based on "childhood memory", as she articulates the way that when relationships come to an end, adults often forget that it's easier for them to move on than their children.

A story about connection and contrast, we meet eight-year-old Chasuna near the Mongolia/China border where she lives in a yurt with her mum. Cinematographer Joewi Verhoeven (remember that name, we'll be hearing it a lot more, I'm sure) captures the open spaces of the steppe, where Chasuna (played by an actress of the same name) has the freedom to ride her horse. On the day we meet her, she switches her steed for the back of her mum's motorbike as they leave the countryside behind for the tarmac road and, eventually, the city, with its belching factories and building bustle - again captured in graceful contrast by Verhoeven's lens.

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This is where her dad - now speaking Chinese - lives with his new wife and where, over the course of an evening we'll get to share Chasuna's mixed emotions about that. There's a sense of loss here, not just of the parent now moved to the city but in the way he has jettisoned their culture along the way and the manner in which he expects Chasuna to go with the flow.

The visual storytelling leads us to places beyond the script, where warring feelings lie. Yuan keeps us with the youngster's emotions as the small items - a confected cake, a shared moment with dad and the sunlight on the coat of Chasuna's horse as she leans into it - take on significance beyond the adult world.

Reviewed on: 24 Jun 2020
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Heading South packshot
A young girl goes to spend the night with her father... and his new wife.

Director: Yuan Yuan

Writer: Yuan Yuan

Starring: Chasuna, Fala Chen, Tungalag, Eerdeng Tuoya

Year: 2020

Runtime: 13 minutes

Country: China, US


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