Germany’s Deckert Distribution has picked up international rights for Taiwanese filmmaker Elvis A-Liang Lu’s sophomore feature “A Holy Family,” which world premiered in Visions du Réel’s international competition section.
The film is a home-coming story about the director who returns to his village in Taiwan after a 24-year absence. His elder brother is a psychic who offers career advice to the villagers, but fails in his own entrepreneurial ventures as a farmer, and his father is a gambling addict in poor health.
The one who holds the family together is his mother, a stubborn woman who worries about the future and finds consolation in a stream of religious rituals at the Taoist altar in their home.
The previously estranged family, where love and grudges intertwine and surface, slowly comes closer through A-Liang’s lens in an intimate portrait of rekindled family bonding and a tale of self-discovery through filmmaking.
“The main theme of the film is our attempt to understand one another better, grow closer, and mend the family relationship,” said A-Liang, who explained how he was prompted to return home from Taipei after receiving a phone call from his mother asking him to arrange a photo for her funeral.
The request awoke something deep inside him. “I understood that she was getting ready to die. Suddenly, I felt that I wasn’t ready to lose her, and I realized that I didn’t have much time left to face the family problems that had haunted me for so long. I decided to go back home and film our daily life like a family video that we had never had,” said A-Liang, who returned home on a regular basis over the next three years with his camera.
What emerges is an unexpected and deeply moving family portrait by the filmmaker, who explained how the process eased the feelings of anger and emptiness he had harbored for so long.
“At the beginning I wanted to confront them with all those questions I had about how their life was absurd and blame them for what they had inflicted upon themselves and on me. But I slowly came to realize that I should instead try to find a way to communicate with my family,” he said. “This change of perception was what I wanted to share with the audience. Coming back to my family was complicated, but it somehow also pushed me to come back toward myself.”
Reacting to the news, Deckert Distribution CEO Liselot Verbrugge said: “ ‘A Holy Family’ is not just the emotional, personal journey of director Elvis A-Liang Lu, it is a universal, incredibly heartwarming story about reconciliation and family ties. Lu has really managed to combine his position as a son and filmmaker in such a balanced way: with enough access to show the intimate confines of a family home and at the same time enough distance to make a gorgeous film.”
A former Venice Gap Financing Market and DMZ Industry project, “A Holy Family” is produced by Stefano Centini for Taiwan’s Volos Films and Jean-Laurent Csinidis for France’s Films de Force Majeure.
The Visions du Réel winners will be announced on April 16. The festival wraps on April 17.