Chinese filmmaker Xiaoxi Xu’s short film, “Mei Mei,” was recently selected as an official selection of Hungary’s 3rd Annual "Slow Film International Film Festival." A successor to the 32-year-old Hungary Film Festival born of the Film Art Initiative that includes films from Europe and North America, “Mei Mei” was screened in late August to an international crowd and was received as one of the festival’s finest. Co-written and shot by Spain’s Robert F. Canuto and produced by Venezuela’s Marielvy D’Apollo and Spain’s Ana Menendez, the film is produced by Almost Red productions and stars Janet Chiarabaglio and Nima Dabestani.
The film follows Lulu, a high-class prostitute, who receives constant visits from her neighbor, Julian, who believes that she is his missing ex-girlfriend, Mei Mei. Thinking that he is merely trying to win her over, Lulu rejects his advances and forbids him from seeing her, but once he is gone she desperately misses his kindness in the face of the cruel suitors she surrounds herself with. From there, the two embark on a journey in search of companionship in a beautiful and heartbreaking love story.
Shot on 16mm film by a grant from Kodak, director Xiaoxi Xu’s says his focus in creating the film “was to explore the internal feeling of an abused and beaten down woman that tries to move forward with her life, turning the tables and using men as objects through her career as a prostitute.” The film also addresses the question of identity. “I create two characters that look identical and probably are also very similar in terms of general personality, but their life experiences and environment determine their confidence and how they find control in their lives.”
Xu has worked as a photographer, video artist, cinematographer, and editor, collaborating with Canuto on “Mei Mei,” “Toto Forever” (Best Short winner at the Panama LGBT Film Festival), and Canuto’s first feature, “Desire Street,” for release next year. Australian actress Chiarabaglio, best known for her roles in “Songbird” (Official Selection of the 2007 Sundance Film Festival), “Inspector Gadget II,” and “Jeopardy 3,” appears in the title role following her Jury Award at the Boston Indie Film Fest. Los Angeles-based Dabestani, whose feature credits include “American Dreamz” with Dennis Quaid and “Vicious Circle (winner of the Best Film in the New York Latin Film Festival),” rounds out the cast as the love sick Julian. Known in Hollywood for his extensive commercial work, Dabestani also studies acting under Tom Irwin through the prestigious Steppenwolf Theatre Company.