When his fading memory isn’t failing him, Ma Ke can look back on an impressive theater career. He directed more than 80 Peking operas, and there would undoubtedly have been more had it not been for Mao’s Cultural Revolution.
Ma Ke’s son, the well-known Chinese artist Maleonn, wants to work one last time with his father, who is suffering from dementia. In his studio, Maleonn and his team are building an ambitious puppet theater piece about a son who makes a time machine for his father to capture his childhood memories. Filmmakers Yang Sun and S. Leo Chiang were able to film Maleonn and his father over a long period of time, both in the studio where the gifted artist is creating this amazing magical-realist world, and in his parents’ kitchen, as they grumble at each other affectionately.
The account of the complex creative process includes moving vignettes of the personal lives of Maleonn and his parents. We see how the frail Ma Ke’s memory loss is becoming increasingly concerning. When his wife blames his forgetfulness on self-importance and a fundamental lack of humility, he retorts, “If I were humble, I wouldn’t be who I am today.”