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'The Lunar New Year' is the debut documentary by Dewei Yao. Learn about the doc and the filmmaker here.

‘The Lunar New Year’ directed by filmmaker Dewei Yao

The Lunar New Year is a heartwarming documentary from the mind of director Dewei Yao. The film is set during the Lunar New Year in 2019, and delves into the relationship between an aging woman and her family. The woman’s health is fading, but she is still able to impact each of her relatives in important ways.

Yao brings a sense of time and place to this intimate story. The bond between family is unbreakable, no matter what transpires or how much time passes in between visits. The Lunar New Year explores this bond, as well as the ways in which knowledge can often come from unlikely sources.

Dewei Yao previously worked as a freelance photographer, but he was compelled to make his directorial debut after a series of formative personal experiences. He explained that he had long wanted to make a film about his mother’s side of the family, and the spark to do so came when he visited his 92 year-old grandmother. 

Yao was among the members tasked with deciding how to provide for his grandmother, and his most vivid memories about the decision came on December 28, 2019, which happens to be the Lunar New Year. He said that the stress of the situation led his family to act in ways he had not previously witnessed.

“It started out harmoniously then turned tumultuous as grandma was witnessing lying on her bed”, Yao recalled. “One of my uncles, on our way to the family grave, had said to me: living is tiring. If you don’t want to be tired, then lie in the grave. Oftentimes we find that life, with all the emotions it brings, is frustrating, but life goes on, for you, for me, and for my 92 year-old grandma”.

The Lunar New Year delves into the backstory of Yao’s grandmother. She lost her father when she was only three years old, and his absence led to years of turmoil. Her mother was sold when she was nine, and she was sent to be a bride in a small fishing village in Anhui Province, China. Yao’s grandmother eventually gave birth to eight children, and spent the rest of her life in the aforementioned village.

The documentary alternates between Yao’s grandmother’s past and the present day, where her relatives are forced to come up with a financial solution to support her. It makes for an interesting contrast, not only in terms of tone but perspective as well.

Dewei Yao said that The Lunar New Year is meant to symbolize the ways in which life, and family as a whole, are forced to move on. “This is the story of an ordinary family in a most common rural village in China”, he stated. “For everyone there, no matter how frustrating life is, life goes on. . .”

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