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Review: We Went to Wonderland (2008)

Director: Guo Xialu | 79 minutes | drama, comedy, documentary | Actors: Xiulin Guo,

The maker of “How is Your Fish Today?”, Guo Xiaolu, has good experiences with the International Festival Rotterdam. This is the festival where she scored high with the aforementioned film in 2007 and thus got the starting shot for the further success she would reap with the film. With “We Went to Wonderland”, which was screened at the 2008 Rotterdam Film Festival, she also hopes to generate good word-of-mouth advertising, and to some extent this could certainly happen. “We Went to Wonderland” is an appealing, personal story that is unpretentious and also a very good example of what is possible in the field of cinema with few resources.

This last aspect in particular will appeal to the imagination, especially among aspiring filmmakers. The was recorded with the video function of a digital camera. And another dramatically effective, and often visually appealing movie has emerged too! This means that there is no longer an excuse for aspiring filmmakers not to actually start on a film. No financial excuse, of course, because some creativity and the art to deal with your limitations is required. Xiaolu wisely chose to keep the subject simple and direct: she simply filmed her parents’ daily activities and impressions while they were traveling in Europe. By focusing on the persons, it is the in and between these persons where the power comes or must come from, instead of from or the dynamics of the camera work. And if these people and their relationships are then carefully observed, you have an effective film, regardless of the degree of slickness of the images.

While there is little wrong with the images. With pan shots (turning left and right around the axis) and vigorously moving shots, you see the limitations of these types of films – it is very choppy – but blowing these digital images up on a large screen in a relatively low resolution usually causes for an acceptable presentation, and the compositions, especially in calm or quiet shots, often produce beautiful, poetic images. It is also nice for the or video medium that the filmmaker’s father cannot talk. Now tension is created because the viewer has to wait for the man while he is writing down a comment or answer in his notebook or on a piece of paper. In addition, the whole intercourse between this couple is endearing and amusing, as in the case of the father’s dry reactions – I’ve eaten Chinese for over a century, why should I switch to English food now? – and mothering by the woman when they go to buy shoes together, for example. As a film in itself, “We Went to Wonderland” is already a sweet, charming piece, but its technical background makes it even more interesting.

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