Friday, March 31st, 2023

‘Huahua’s Dazzling World’ MoMI Film Review: NYC Premiere

Director Daphne Xu’s documentary ‘Huahua’s Dazzling World and Its Myriad Temptations‘ presents a modest income, humble grandmother in China living almost entirely for her social media profile. Addicted to it.

In essence, Huahua’s digital avatar being the only escape from the chains of every day chores and monotony.

This ‘Huahua’s Dazzling World and Its Myriad Temptations’ film review contains spoilers. The documentary is screening on Saturday, March 18 at 8:00 pm over at Queens based Museum of the Moving Image (MoMI).

It’s difficult to say if this documentary is meant to present Huahua as a symbol of happiness regardless of means, a dystopian looking glass into the lives of the working class, or just presents things as they are. Agenda-less. But for me, Huahua appears unhappy at some points in the film outside of when she’s live streaming for her fans.

Huahua speaks of her husband being ‘spoiled like an emperor’ with her cooking dinners every night while he sleeps and gambles. You can see visible dark shading of her walls from years of using aged stove equipment.

She discusses doing every single chore for her daughter so she can study and go to college…. So she won’t end up ‘uneducated’, and shifting between menial labor to house work. The matriarch of the family feels she must take on this burden even when her mind and body tires of the monotony.

Huahua is noticeably distracted by social media on her phone at all times. She is also entirely unafraid of strangers, telling her grandkids to openly tell the fans her phone number and even house address.

For Huahua, sharing videos is the gateway to making friends she otherwise wouldn’t be able to make easily in real life.

Huahua’s Dazzling World and its Myriad Temptations – Photo provided by NYC’s Museum of the Moving Image (MoMI) / Director Daphne Xu

One of the moments that stayed most with me in this documentary is Huahua commenting she doesn’t mind if people laugh at her in her videos. Then remarking a traditional Chinese adage akin to ‘Nobody laughs at you when you’re dead.’ How even those laughing at her videos make her feel alive.

At one point later in the film, Huahua comments to some day laborers that she’s gotten divorced and looking for a new husband. One of the laborers tells Huahua that ‘he’s in his 40s, works all day, and hasn’t had time to find a wife’.

Huahua asks about how much savings he has, very direct and away from western images of Disney romance. She half-jokingly informs him she’s “second hand” though. He smiles and replies that “Second hand is fine”.

Large crowds gather to watch Huahua

Throughout the documentary you’ll see crowds gather around watching Huahua dance in front of a phone strapped to a tripod. Live streaming in total joy. These are the times you can witness Huahua’s charisma on full display.

The online life is where Huahua can still be herself, removed from the mundane figurative handcuffs of endless chores. Like the fountain of youth is found in social media likes. Every video comment, another reason to push forward for Huahua on the worst of days.

Conclusion: The documentary is an interesting trek into the life of the everyday working class. Perhaps, invisible without the modern megaphone of social media apps.

Huahua’s Dazzling World and Its Myriad Temptations is directed by Chinese Canadian filmmaker Daphne Xu.

Director Daphne Xu – Photo provided by NYC’s Museum of the Moving Image (MoMI) / Director Daphne Xu

MoMI Ticket Info:

Tickets for the March 18, 2023 film screening at NYC’s Museum of the Moving Image are $15 for non-MoMI members, $11 senior and students, $9 youth (ages 3–17) and discounted for MoMI members ($7–$11).

The film is part of MoMI’s First Look 2023 film screenings.

Huahua’s Dazzling World and Its Myriad Temptations Film Synopsis:

Director Daphne Xu. China/Canada/U.S. 2022, 82 mins. In Mandarin with English subtitles.
“In Xiong’an New Area, a government-planned city just south of Beijing, the earthy, energetic Huahua ekes out a life for herself and her family by livestreaming on the video-sharing app Kuaishou.
Dancing and singing with a hustler’s desperate stamina, employing facial beauty filters while chatting gruffly with her followers, she projects herself into an idealized, virtual world without ever fully transcending the drab, domestic drudgery she daily occupies.
Composed almost entirely of long takes, whose compositions position Huahua firmly within and relative to her physical and social environment, Xu’s film lays bare the irreconcilable distance between the self on screen and the self in space.
New York City (NYC) Premiere.”

More Museum of the Moving Image NYC Coverage:

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Video Tour of ‘Envisioning 2001’ Stanley Kubrick NYC Exhibit at MoMI

Katharina Kubrick talks Stanley Kubrick, 2001 MoMI Exhibit, A.I. (Interview)

Watch MoMI ‘Envisioning 2001’ Presentation with Katharina Kubrick

Visit the NYC Local News section for more reviews of upcoming NYC film screenings!

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