Last week, I watched the film Artemisia on Link TV. (Watch it online at http://www.linktv.org). It is the first fictional film by young Taiwanese director Chiang Hsiu-chiung. The story centers around motherhood and changing values among different generations.
Ai-tsao is a woman who is trapped in the middle of her family dynamics. On the one hand, she has to handle her aged mother who has stereotyped and difficult attitudes towards people, especially those who are different from her. And on the other hand, she has to deal with the sexuality and life choices of her young adult children which are very alien to her.
Taiwanese opera star and actress Pan Li Li is superb in the role of Ai-tsao. She creates a sympathetic, subtle character without resorting to histrionics. On the whole, Artemisia is a also a movie that is not glossed up. It is an unhurried film with a realistic feel and is quite a pleasure to watch.
In an interview screened after the movie, Chiang explains why she chose the title “Artemisia”. She explains that artemisia is a medicinal herb common to Taiwan, and in Latin, the word also has a maternal meaning. “The herb is very much like most traditional mothers in Taiwan. Ordinary yet very potent,” she says.
This description reminded me of Katherine Jackson, Many close to the family says that she was a rock in Michael Jackson’s life. If you followed the alleged molestation trial against Michael in 2005, you would see her arriving every day. On some days, she walked slowly, probably due to some problems with her leg. But there she was: this quiet, stoic woman, to offer support to her son.
Michael’s famous lawyer at the trial, Mesereau, talked about this in a report in the Los Angeles Times on June 30: “She would tell him that the truth would prevail, that God would help him. She just kept him strong,” defense lawyer Thomas A. Mesereau Jr. recalled. “She never missed a single day of testimony, and it was a five-month trial.”
In the wake of the tragic passing of her son, she had quietly stepped in again and took care of her grandchildren and her son’s estate. A Superior Court judge appointed her special administrator of her son’s estate, and also granted her temporary custody of Michael’s three children.
There is a scene towards the end of the film where Ai-tsao displays this kind of quiet, primal courage. And as a character in the film describes it: she’s like a wolf with a samurai sword.