Breathless Animals

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    Breathless Animals

    Dongwu Fangyan

    Directed by



    68 min

    • Mandarin


    "What did you dream about and how was your life as a teenager?" A woman recalls her youthful memories of her 1970’s, while the re-creation of the modernity of the past of China unfolds in front of our eyes. One day, the first animal appears to her, a White horse…


    Show All Awards Show Less Awards
    • Best Mid-Length Documentary - Cinéma Vérité 2019



    Lei Lei
    Lei Lei
    Lei Lei

    Director's Statement

    Because of my work, I spend a lot of time away from my hometown – located in the south of China - and away from my closest family and relatives. Even my grandparents passed away, I was not able to attend the funerals because I was not in the country.
    I return to my hometown several times a year to visit my parents. Through our interactions, I realize that they harbor much more anxiety than I remembered. Perhaps out of their love for me, they would usually express their concerns and worries about my current life.
    I believe that in a fast-developing country like China, there are many young people like me that leave their hometowns and families to pursue opportunities in a faraway place - to a bigger city or even to a foreign land. In that new place, the rapid rate of urbanization, modernization of lifestyle, and difference in culture are all factors that may evoke the sense of distress and anguish found commonly amongst this population.
    Young people work hard to assimilate into society or integrate with the most modern trends. In contrast, the life experiences of our parents’ and grandparents' generations are seen as passé and obsolete.
    But, is that really the case? Whenever I feel lost in a foreign land, I also feel this eagerness to return to my family. This is not simply a case of being homesick, but a desire to explore and gain a more clear understanding of myself, and my identity.
    In the past few years, I’ve conducted many interviews with my family members where I listened to their tales. These oral histories are like broken fragments of a mirror or reflections of a lake, piecing together a world that I haven't yet imagined.
    The world may not be about "history" or "reality" but it is very real. You can feel the palpable wetness of the air, the dust within a building, the expression of an individual, and the touch of an object... It is the same world that my family walked out from, and their bodies emanate this warm radiance.
    Putting to use the many stories told by family members to me, I completed BREATHLESS ANIMALS in 2019. Along with it, I explored and experimented with images and sounds.
    I hope that through this film I can gain a better understanding of my parents' and grandparents' generations, and the shadows that they casted on me. I want to understand the influences they had on me and how the grander historical backdrop and social movements affected my entire family.
    Perhaps there is not a definite answer to each question.

    Lei Lei

    Lei Lei


    Lei is an up-and-coming multimedia Chinese animation artist with his hands on graphic design, illustration, short cartoon, graffiti and music. In 2009 he received his master's degree from Tsinghua University. In 2010, his film THIS IS LOVE was shown at the Ottawa International Animation Festival and awarded the Best Narrative Short. In 2013 his film RECYCLED was selected by Annecy festival and was the Grand Prix shorts winner - non-narrative at Holland International Animation Film Festival. In 2014 he was on the Jury of Zagreb / Holland International Animation Film Festival and the winner of 2014 asian cultural council grant.

    Selected Filmography