Once Removed

The Boston Phoenix

DIRECTED BY: Julie Mallozzi

REVIEWED: 11-29-99

Julie Mallozzi, a filmmaking student at Harvard's Carpenter Center, grew up in Ohio, the daughter of an Italian-American father and a first-generation Chinese mother. Her mother's parents were stationed in Washington under the Chinese Nationalist government, and they remained exiled in America after Mao Tse-tung's Communist takeover. Several years ago, Mallozzi went on a filmic journey to find her mother's relatives in China. Once Removed is her informal, ingratiatingly unpretentious recording of that trip, moving relative to relative.

Mallozzi's family seem to share a humor and a warmth, and also a higher education (many are scientists and academics), that made them targets during Mao's Cultural Revolution. One aunt and her family were shipped to Inner Mongolia. Another aunt (a lovely, now white-haired, physicist) was placed in solitary confinement for six years. Her crime? Her husband's brother had once been the lover of Mao's homicidal wife. And so it's gone in China. One dignified relative didn't even make it to be a Maoist victim: he was beaten to death by the Nationalists.

Mallozzi's next movie? I suggest a companion piece traveling to Italy and documenting her father's family, so that the two films can be shown back to back.

--Gerald Peary

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