An Unanswered Telephone Call: a film by Aziz Isa Elkun

by Yi Xiaocuo

This short film is based on Aziz Isa Elkun’s real life experience. Just like every ordinary British citizen, he takes his daughter to school on a beautiful day; just like every Uyghur living in exile, he has lost contact with his family, even their well-being has become questionable. Aziz interrogates this painful disjuncture and his identity becomes the answer. Yet, he tirelessly explains to the world what happened, unraveling his childhood, youth, and generational trauma inflicted by the Chinese state.

In the film, Aziz’s mother powerfully depicts every Uyghur and Kazakh mother left behind in the homeland. As elder generations lived through Maoist times, they were systematically injured and insulted as ethnic others after dutifully carrying out commune labor and domestic labor; in the post-Mao era they are again taking the brunt of state capitalism with their reproductive female labor capitalized and devalued in a marketized economy. In their late years, while they are in need of support and care, they are tossed instead into a digital “Cultural Revolutionary” history grinder. In this world the aged are often forgotten, and in catastrophe they are the most vulnerable. Watching Aziz and his mother’s last phone call, I was also reminded of my mother when she said to me:

“My child, listening to your voice can make me happy for days! No matter where you are in this world, take care of yourself.”

Aziz Isa Elkun’s film An Unanswered Telephone Call trailer

Shared with the artist’s permission on Sep 16, 2019
Links: The film is not in public domain as it is now part of several International Short Film Festivals. For English version of the story, please read on Medium; for film review please check VOA news; for Uyghur version of the story please read on London Uyghur Ensemble.

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