'A Bundle of Joi' by Melissa Ho Xueling - SIFF

A thoughtfully crafted film is often discernible right from the very first frame, or first few frames. Over warm and intimate details like Chinese herbs simmering in chicken broth, steam filtering through from the pot kissing the camera lens, we are transported into the world of Joi and her grandparents, who live together is a small but cosy flat. Joi is a 4-5 year girl who is raised by her grandparents and has naturally developed a strong affinity to them. Over a series of footages of daily living and narration, I developed a proximity to the characters whom seemed so natural in their roles. There was nothing to tell me if this was a documentary or fiction or a semi-documentary with real characters 'directed' in a situation familiar to them. I am inclined to think it is the last one.


The situation is familiar, the characters are everyday people but in the boundaries of this film, their experience seems illuminated by sheer uninhibited nature of their behaviour. While the granny is most of the time absorbed in her cooking and feeding, the girl is oblivious to her surroundings. Part of her endearing nature also stems from her care-free manner that reminds me of the girl in Sun Koh's 'My Secret Heaven' (who must be so grown up by now). Even the grandfather was loveable in his occasional teasing remarks at his equally silver-haired wife. Which made separation (when Mummy came to take the little girl home) a highly frictioned process.

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