4-minute silent film synopsis- The Blind Mama Bear

The Blind Mama Bear

Winter, Northeastern China, a 12-year-old girl with short hair, dressed in all black, sadly looks out the car window from the rear seat of a limousine. The sun of high altitude rises low and gives the sky a pinky grey shade. There is a line of black cars ahead, following a hearse, driving along a dirty thin river in a light snow. Tall buildings and factories that line the road give away to nothing but white snow and black mountains.

A piece of snow falls onto the roof of the hearse and doesn’t melt. We see through the hearse’s roof: a glass coffin is inside. An old lady in red lies there.

In the front seat of the hearse, two middle-aged men are throwing bill-shaped red paper into the sky. Some red money fly into the girl’s car and fly out. Her gaze follows the red money and suddenly she sees a mama bear walks slowly in the snow followed by her baby bear. When she is about to enter the woods, she turns to face the girl. The bear is brown and blind. Her eyes are covered by blood and scars. She turns her head away and keeps walking towards the woods where the trees are so tall that they create a wall. The bear and her baby disappear into the wood but they leave no footprint. Oddly calm, the girl turns to her mother sitting next to her and holds her hand, interlocking her fingers with her mothers’.

At a small hill, surrounded by tall pine trees, overlooking the village, the girl stands far away from the all black funeral crowd with her mom, fingers still interlocked with hers’. The father, very tall and thin, holds a clay jar walking from the car to the tombstones, raises the jar overhead and smashes the jar to the ground. He looks up with no expression on his face. More red money is flying in the sky over some small tombs. He reaches the fresh dug grave. He looks through the funeral crowed and find the girl’s eyes. The girl looks at him. She whispers something and closed her eyes.

She sees the black. And suddenly dimly she sees her younger self appear from the darkness. She sits with her grandma under an old tree monster located near the grave. The tree monster is almost dead. There is no leave on its shoulder. It spreads its arms into the sky and waving to nothing. Her grandma forms a bear shape with her right hand and makes a human shape with her left hand. Her hands transform into a real bear and a woman.

The woman, a mother, left her two small children alone in the house. She walked into the woods to collet branches for a fire. A blind mama bear approached her from behind and eats her in a whole. The blind mama bear transforms into the mother and comes to the house at night. The children don’t suspect and hugged the mama bear. They go to bed together, mama bear in the middle surrounded by two children. Mama bear starts to eat the younger child’s finger. The older child is awaked by a wet crunching sound. Mama bear attempts to quiet the older child by giving her a finger to nibble on.

The girl opens her eyes trembling and steps forward to join her family around the grave. The glass coffin is almost completely covered by dirt. They are putting the last scoop of dirt on her face. The girl gets to look at her grandma’s face one more time.

Nightfall. In the yard of a house in the village, the girl stands. The snow hasn’t stopped. Snowflakes fall on to the girl but don’t melt. The girl sees two human shadows in the window lined by a warm yellow light. One is tall and thin, the other is curvy. The curvy shadow pushes the tall shadow away. The tall shadow reaches the curvy shadow’s hand and holds it. Suddenly there is one more shadow crawling in between them. It’s a bear shaped shadow and it bites their hands off, left them with bare arms bleeding.

The light gets stronger and stronger. It washes everything away to white and the pink morning sun is rising. Snow stops. The mother in black drags a suitcase in her left hand and the girl in black in her right hand. They leave the village, leaving two lines of footprints in the snow.

Samples of Film Critic



1. Xala, Metaphor and Satire

Metaphor and satire is a perfect pair of instruments in terms of expressing political ideas and evoking popular audience. Satire manages to get anger and laughter at the same time. Metaphor offers the audience a chance to figure out the hidden agenda by themselves. However it doesn’t necessarily strengthen the political ideals that are the film’s underpinning. I think metaphor and satire allow the director to get his or her idea out to the public easily but less powerful. I think people do not take satire seriously.


Take “Xala” as an example, “Xala” is literally a story about marriages and "Xala," a curse of impotence. Sembene Ousmane takes the conflict between modernity and tradition as a breakthrough point to criticize the post-colonial African government of Senegal. Sembene reveals the hypocrisies and absurdities of the post-colonialism through El’s ridiculous marriages. 


In Xala, the aggregated portrait of female characters particularly demonstrates the tension between the western “Frenchness” and the traditional “Africaness”. In the scene where El Hadji collects his two wives for his wedding to this third, Sembene introduces us to three different types of African women by contrasting their dressing styles. El Hadji’s elder wife, Adja, is a traditional docile African woman. She wears a vibrantly colored grand boubou with her hair wrapped in a scarf. We not only see a faithful and supportive wife but also discover the African traditions, history and religious duties from Adja’s dressing and body gestures. Oumi, El’s second wife who is completely different from Adia, is totally modern and westernized. She wears a black backless dress with sunglasses and a wig. These western “consumer goods” that she wears highlight Oumi’s “possessive individualism” and her characteristic of money worship. During their conversation in Oumi’s apartment, she also disparages the traditions as she speaks in French, referring to Awa as an “old dried up fish”. And finally El Hadji’s third wife, N’Goni, has no mind of her own, is dressed in her white European style wedding dress under a veil simply as an object to satisfy El’s sexual and materialistic desires. The transformation of these three women parallels and leads to the corruption that El Hadji has been through. Sembene says, “He got his first wife before becoming a somebody. Along with his economic and social development, he takes a second who corresponds, so to speak, to a second historical phase. During this process, El Hadji too, is engulfed by the western modernity. He dresses in western suit, speaks French instead of his mother tongue, and spends a huge amount of money to get a wife who matches his understanding of western modernity. As he betrays his first wife, he betrays his African traditions and identity. When El’s second wife mercenarily takes away his money and his third wife brings him the “Xala,” his blind worship and imitation of Europeaness finally destroy him. It shows that the European power continues to rule the country even after Senegal’s independence.

3. Dialectics and Political Films

Starting with Eisenstein, dialectic approach plays a big part in political films but not the most powerful approach in my opinion. I don't think it has evolved much in the trajectory of our class or as a tool in political filmmaking.


Dialectical approach emphasizes that everything is composed of contradictions, two opposing forces. Dualism is particularly useful since it makes things muddy and simpler. I think the power of a political film with dialectic approach depends on its audience intellectual level. Eisenstein’s theory is revolutionary because he is the first one who took dialectic into film. Dialectic itself is a real old instrument. I don’t think there has been much development in terms of dialectic approach in filmmaking.


In “the General line”, Eisenstein used dialectical approach to show the dualism between the old and new, how they transform from and to each other. He intended to show that there are two sides to everything. “The General Line” is a very successful and persuasive movie for its target audience, nearly illiterate Russian, and the post revolution time period. If the film faces a highly critical and educated audience, it probably wouldn’t have much influence.


In “the Battle of Algiers,” the colonizer and the colonized form a dualism, the violence and peace form a dualism, and the modernism and traditionalism form a dualism. Comparing to “the General Line”, I think “the battle of Algiers” is less manipulative and more faithful to history. However its notion to justify and reasoning the colonizer makes me very uncomfortable, as well as Albert Memmi’s book “the colonizer and the colonized” does.


“The Cache” is made in 2005. Dialectical filmmaking has traveled a long way to that point. However, it hasn’t evolved much, at least, I still recognize it right away. There is the opposition between social classes which is expressed in such a loud and unsubtle way, with the contradiction between the setting of George’s house and Majid’s house; There are also the French and the Algiers; the conflict between generations. I feel that the director expresses so many ideas and has so many agendas that the film becomes weak.

“Jeanne” is an example of not using dialectical approach at all. I read some review calling the film a feminism film whose main conflict is Jeanne against the patriarchal world. I disagree. Actually I don’t know how to describe the approach used in “Jeanne.” There isn't a term for that. It’s a unique Chantel Akerman approach and philosophy.



4. Jeanne and the Structure of Despair

“Jeanne” breaks almost every rule of classical cinematic narrative yet it achieves what conventional film would never achieve. I don’t think I have ever seen a film that has as much negative and destructive power as “Jeanne”. “Jeanne” made me tremble with its passive aggressive way of persuasion. It reminds me the time when I first watched “Werckmeister Harmonies” by Bela Tarr. I remember once he was commenting on narration and he said: “I despise stories, as they mislead people into believing that something has happened. In fact, nothing really happens as we flee from one condition to another ... All that remains is time. This is probably the only thing that's still genuine -- time itself; the years, days, hours, minutes and seconds." I didn't fully understand his words until I saw “Jeannie.” I think Bela Tarr’s word would be a perfect example and an exact interpretation of “Jeanne.” Also, Chantel Akerman said, “ It's a film which both makes you aware that it's a film, unlike - say most Hollywood films (which hide the fact of being a film in order to tell a story), yet I could imagine my mother, who is not used to avant-garde films, understanding what's going on in it.” Hollywood films try to drag the audience into the fiction world. . Most films rely on story, on music, and on character. On the other hand, “Jeannie” has a quite passive narration, minimalism acting, and no emotional evoking background music. Jeannie is a character with no backstory, no character depth. We learn about her life with the space of one apartment and in the time span of three days. There is no question posed and no conclusion made. The film dragged me into its time and space. I felt despair. My despair came from a mixture of the boredom of watching a three hours and twenty minutes long movie and Jeanne’s despair. The film tortured me physically and mentally. Its structurelessness and length are part of its structure. The form of “Jeanne” works so well with its content. Without the structure, I don't think it would be as powerfully destructive as it is now.


Other than Chantel Akerman’s unique way of using time and space, her visual style is original. I think she used a lower than normal angle through out the film. Camera movement is reduced as much as possible. The framing is extremely simple as well.  As a result, the distance and equality between Jeanne and me was indescribable. I felt that I breathe the same air as “Jeannie” and that our classroom became part of the film. I had my doubts about its editing. Long takes make people think but what’s the point of extremely long takes which let the audience drift off. For instance, the last scene when Jeanne killed the man. After that, She sits in the living room for 6 or 7 minutes. I asked myself. What is the difference between 3 minutes and 7 minutes? Is this absolutely necessary? I guess she has so much to say that she has to say it with the most volume. Akerman pushes the button so hard. She tries to challenge her audience to the extent that they can not bear.

6 Limits and Potential of Hollywood Political Films

The limits of political thought within the framework of Hollywood filmmaking are mainly the problem of money and its audiences’ intellectual level. Hollywood is a business. Movies need to sell and need to be sold to a sensationalism crowd. The political thought can’t be too subtle or too complicated. It can’t be too serious and heavy.


“Jeanne” is a great movie. If “Jeanne” opens in North American theaters, it would be a box office disaster. I can imagine people falling asleep in theaters or leaving. Akerman intentionally made the sex and nudity in it not sensational at all, which I admire the most. She wants people to concentrate.


Sensationalism is powerful and terrible. Michael Moore’s documentary Fahrenheit 9/11 is a very political film. It’s the highest grossing documentary of all time as well. But it’s a horrible film. On the other hand, Hollywood doesn’t like him. Moore won an Oscar for “Bowling for Columbine”. He gave a speech that night on stage about against Iraq war and he was booed down. In the after party, no one would like to talk to him, except the head of Paramount. I read this stories last year and it sticks with me. Somehow I always pictured Hollywood as very liberal. I guess in fact it’s not.


“The Siege” and “the Grapes of Wrath” both came out of Hollywood. “The Grapes of Wrath” was made in 1940. It looks deeply into capitalism and conflict between classes. Today when I think about a good Hollywood film that talks about capitalism, I can’t find any. I was touched by independent film “the Wolf of Wall Street” because I think it’s about materialism and capitalism but many people only see sex and drugs in it. It is too entertaining. Hollywood films have to be entertaining. I think political thought can be expressed in an entertaining way but the sensational factors prevent people from thinking. There isn’t a balance between keeping the audience and conveying political thought seriously.


“The Siege,” made in 1995, is a not so good movie but there are political thoughts worth thinking in it. There is the voice of terrorists. It’s trying to be a fair movie. The scary things are things like “Argo” or “Zero Dark Thirty”. “Argo” is such a well-made film with amazing actors and writers but it reads like pure propaganda. I’m not an American. The patriotic evoking agenda in political film like “Argo” really upsets me. It’s a successful movie with the emotion driving music, the plot and the sensational tagline with bad words in it. Its usage of dialectics is so persuasive and manipulative however the portrait of Iran is unacceptable.


“Argo” won the Oscar and then “Twelve Years a Slave” won the Oscar. I really don't see the potential of Hollywood political films.



 Media, Public Opinion, and the Iron House

"Imagine an iron house without windows, absolutely indestructible, with many people fast asleep inside who will soon die of suffocation. But you know since they will die in their sleep, they will not feel the pain of death. Now if you cry aloud to wake a few of the lighter sleepers, making those unfortunate few suffer the agony of irrevocable death, do you think you are doing them a good turn?"

"But if a few awake, you can't say there is no hope of destroying the iron house."

Preface, Call to Arms (Cryout), Lu Xun


The influential Chinese revolutionary writer Lu Xun writes the “suffocating iron house” as a metaphor for pre-revolutionary, semi-colonial China’s misery political situation. My broader interpretation of his “iron house” is a metaphor for our global society that breeds war, exploitation, and inequality. In my colloquium, I would like to discuss how the Iron House is created by the system, by the sovereign and is fundamentally shaped by public opinion. How media, as a form of communication and expression of information and opinion through various mediums, impacts the formation of public opinion, people’s perception, and their reaction to the real world.


In Thomas Hobbes’ Leviathan, he describes the formation of the Leviathan similar to the construction of my Iron House. The Leviathan, a metaphor for the state, is described, as an artificial person whose body is made up of all the bodies of its citizens, and the head is the sovereign. According to Hobbes, humans naturally live “solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short” lives in the “state of war” where every man is against every man (24). Humans construct the Leviathan through contracts in order to escape the state of war. Historically, the head of the Leviathan, the sovereign, was to blame when things went wrong, when violence was tolerated, when innocents suffered. Who is the head of the Leviathan? Are they presidents, politicians, news network owners, financiers and heads of big corporations? The unseen, cold, ambitious man? Hobbes disagrees. Every subject is “the author of his sovereign” (99). The sovereign and the Iron House are the public’s collective creation.


Living in the Iron House, it seems like humans generate and accept war, poverty, inequality, etc. Is it because humans are habitually bad and irrational? Is it because of bad environmental influences? Confucius, Aristotle and psychologist Philip Zimbardo value environment’s influence on humans’ actions for their own reasons. Growing up in a Confucian society, I believe in the possibility of a perfect human. Confucian scholars state that the purpose of existence is to reach one's highest potential as a human being: a "perfect person"(Confucius 30). Confucianism values the power of education. No matter if human nature is good, bad or complicated. Confucius believes people are teachable, improvable through communal endeavor and self-cultivation. Furthermore, Aristotle believes in the environments’ power to improve humans as well as corrupt them. In The Nicomachean Ethics, Aristotle considers that human’s self-control is weak so that they are easy to be seduced by external goods; such as sex, money and even wisdom people do bad things for temporary pleasure. Similar to Aristotle, the author of The Lucifer Effect, Psychologist Philip Zimbardo believes that environment turns good people evil. He designed an experiment where students formed a simulated prison to test how good people make bad choices under external influence. He focuses on understanding the nature of the bad barrel of prisons that can corrupt good guards. According to his theory, barrel stands for a closed environment and war is the largest barrel, transforming ordinary, even good men and women into killers. The environments have tremendous influence on how people act.


People perceive their environments through media, according to progressive journalist Walter Lippmann’s argument in Public Opinion. Lippmann opens his book with Plato’s cave allegory where Plato sees the public as chained prisoners with a fire behind can only see shadows in front; knowledge is impossible for those who remain in the cave. Lippmann, following Plato’s philosophy, writes: “the world that we have to deal with politically is out of reach, out of sight, out of mind. It has to be explored, reported, and imagined.” As a result, people produce their “pseudo-environments”, “interior representations of the world”, which are “a determining element in thought, feeling and action” (Lippmann 13). People’s actions are based on pictures in their heads and information given to them, and are often not based on direct knowledge. Thus, media, the messenger, becomes the director of public opinion, and public opinion is the director of humans’ actions.


Plato, Walter Lippmann and Susan Sontag argue that people would not listen to intellectuals instead of manipulators of public opinion. In the Republic Book VI, Plato visualizes the state as a ship at sea, with “the pilot” who steers the ship, “the master”(the public), “the sailors” who fight over the control of the ship to become “the pilot”, and a true pilot, the only one who knows navigation. Plato uses the parable to explain why the true pilot is hard to find and its voice is hard to hear (488). Walter Lippmann concludes his book Public Opinion with an argument about Plato’s “ship of the state” parable. Lippmann agrees with Plato, saying that people “are more interested in themselves than in anything else in the world”(95). Susan Sontag in Regarding the Pain of Others claims that there are people who would do anything to stay untouched. War news, celebrity scandals, sensational reports are everywhere. It seem like some may conclude that most people watch news for entertainment rather than educational purpose. Is it truly people’s choice? Is it TV networks’ economic and political choice? The weakness of people’s rationality makes the public vulnerable to propaganda and advertisements that has been taking over media; it makes the manipulation of pictures in people’s heads easy and allows the manufacture of public opinion. I think the limited but powerful public opinion should not be influenced by politics and business in a democratic society because the public is not well educated enough to tell opinion from truth.


Ideally, media should form healthy public opinion, pursuing truth, protecting the public’s rights to know. There are a three examples when media, not controlled by political force and money, showed us its capability. In 1972, during the Vietnam War, AP photographer Nick UT took a Pulitzer Prize winning picture portraying a napalm-burned, Vietnamese girl, Kim Phuc. People looked at it and said, “this war has got to end”(Chong Foreword). The photograph showed the public the terrifying human cost of war and how wrong and destructive it was. It gave the public a solid person to sympathize with which is the core power of photojournalism. In 1988, Errol Morris, the Oscar-winning filmmaker, made a documentary film “the Thin Blue Line” investigating the case of Randall Dale Adams who was convicted and sentenced to life in prison for murder. The film proves five witnesses committed perjury. Approximately a year after the film's release, the case was reviewed and he was released from prison. Excellent investigative journalism has the ability to expose lies and discover truth. In 2010, Chelsea Manning (born as Bradley Manning), an intelligence analyst serving in Iraq, leaked classified documents, including Iraq war log, to Wikileaks. Wikileaks is an online journalistic organization whose slogan is “we open governments.” Though Manning is sentenced to prison for 35 years, the public cared about and learned information beyond pictures in their heads.


Media shapes the public’s perception, and greatly impacts people’s reaction to reality. As the director of public opinion, media should educate and inform the public. People want to know what is happening and they want something done about it; they want to punish wrongdoers and help the innocent.

The Soup

By Bai Feng

The Soup


I spent three days writing a story, that I hated from the moment I finished. The story is about egg soups and seaweed soups.

I went to the writing center as usual. I picked someone with a silly name, Mark. He looks like a Mark. I mean, the name Mark describes him better than any word. I don't know if you feel the same, about names, as I feel: every name has an appearance and a characteristic. “Mark” is a tall dude with curly hair, talkative and aggressive; “Max” is a hairy boy or a girl with large boobs. “Vivian” is a bitch; “Natalie” is a self-contemptuous coward pretending to be a queen. Anyway, talkative Mark took three minutes to read my story and started commenting.

He asked me hundreds of questions but wouldn't let me answer: “Is your character male or female? How dose she look like? Why is she doing this?”

He was sputtering all over me: “Why is the soup so important?”

Finally, he concluded. “I don't get it.”



I have been eating California rolls for lunch everyday since I came to New York two years ago. The ones from the Japanese convenient store Panya on Stuyvesant St. are really delicious because they put white sesame over the rice roll. The ones from the Korean convenient store M2M next to my apartment are not that good because they use plain white rice. Anyway, M2M is closer and cheaper. In the past three days, I ate ten packs of California sushi from the M2M because I don't want walk far when I’m writing.

As I finished the last box of sushi, I finished my story and began to think of something hot to drink. Then I remembered the instant soups I brought from China. My mother bought me five egg soups and five seaweed soups. She threw the outer covers away and put the soups together in a LockLock plastic box. Without the outer cover, the two kinds of soups have the exactly same look, sliver vacuum bags with no label. In other words, thanks to her, the only way to tell a bag of soup’s flavor is to open it.


I boiled some water and washed one coffee cup that I bought from Ikea. Can I tell you a cold joke about a coffee cup? I heard it from my roommate, Chris. By the way, the name Chris is pale and crazy about cleanliness. You know, some people looks like their names and others don't. In fact, Chris is a masculine fat guy who throws stinky socks everywhere.

Anyway, here is the cold joke. One day a coffee cup and a glass are walking in the middle of a street. Suddenly there came a car from their back. The driver shouted: “Go away!”

“Boom!” Glass died.

“Why? Why didn't the coffee cup die?” Chris asked me.

I said: “How the fuck should I know?”

Chris lifted the coffee cup in hand and showed me its handle: “Because coffee cup has an ear. He heard the driver and ran away.”

“What a stupid story!”


Anyway, the water was ready. I opened a soup. It’s seaweed. Somehow, I didn't want to have seaweed soup so I opened another one.

“Shit!” It was still a seaweed soup. An instant soup looks very gross, especially a seaweed soup. Seaweed is squashed and dried into flakes with small shrimps. It is basically a yellow cube.

I was disappointed and got obsessed. I really didn't want to eat any seaweed soup today. Before I opened the third soup, I kind of prayed. I’m not a Christian or anything but when hoping for the good, I still pray.

With a sharp tearing sound, I got my third seaweed soup.

Are you kidding me? I got five bags of egg soups and five bags of seaweed soups. I opened three and they are all seaweed soups! For me, seaweed was as gross as my roommate’s curly pubic hair on our toilet seat now.

Unconsciously, I opened my fourth instant soup bag. Guess what? It was a fucking seaweed soup.


Now this got serious.

I have never been so obsessed with anything before. My apartment seems so big, almost with no edge. The walls and ceiling were expanding secretly and quietly. In front of me, there were four seaweed soups. They looked different from before. I mean, physically nothing changed but the air around them feels different.

I could hear my heart beating extremely fast and it beat in this way: so-up, so-up, so-up.

How likely would you pick the only crap out of six?

Usually, I would answer: “No way.” However, in my mind, now the possibility is 100%.

I put the rest of the soups on a table. There were six of them. I looked at them from head to toe and tried to find any difference. Then I gave up. Those motherfuckers were absolutely the same, same size, same weight. I carefully smelled each of them, once and again. Nothing. I smelled nothing.

After doing all these crazy shit, I closed my eyes.

I took a deep breath and picked one.

Holding my breath, I started to tear.



“Hah!hahahaha!  My roommate burst into laughter when I told him the soup story.

Then he said: “Why didn't you ask me to open one for you? In that case, it might be an egg soup. You know, sometimes people stuck in misfortune.”

I shrugged and said: “I don't know. I had a strong feeling that I have to open an egg soup by myself that day. I have never desire it that much. It has to be an egg soup.”

“Give me a break, Bai! You are such a loser. It’s just a s-o-u-p!”

“You don't understand. The soup is like a switch. Once you turned it on, you can never turn it off. If I picked the last seaweed soup instead of an egg soup, everything would change.”

Chris interrupted me: “Then what? Is it the end of the world?”

“No. It’s not like that.”

“Tell me then, hah. What change is it?”

“Have you ever read a short story by Haruki Murakami called the Second Bakery Attack?

“Nope. What is it about?”

“The main character and his friend tried to rob a bakery. However the bakery owner offered them a deal: If they can listen to his Wagner LP from beginning to the end, they could take breads as many as they wanted. They took the deal and quit the robbery. After the robbery, the main character and his friend broke up for no reason.

Time went by. One night, the main character, married already, woke up at 2 o’clock as well as his wife. They felt hungry like never before. They ate everything they had but were still hungry. The main character told his wife the failed bakery attack. His wife thought they had to do it again in the right way: rob a bakery together tonight. They couldn't find an opening bakery and robbed a MacDonald’s instead. They took thirty hamburgers and ate ten of them. Finally they were full.”

“That’s it?” Chris was bored. I could tell.

“That is it. My soup is like their bakery attack. It has to happen in the right way.”

“I don't get it.”

“Alright. I won’t explain any more. There are only two possibilities: You may get it right away or you may never get it.”

“That’s nonsense. You haven’t told me what happened to your fifth soup? ”

“I don't know. I didn't open it. It’s like a Schrodinger’s cat now.