The errors and evil of Mao Zedong have been tackled by some of China’s foremost filmmakers, but not with quite the real-life personal twist of “Mulberry Child,” a docu based on Jian Ping’s memoir of her Sino childhood. Helmer Susan Morgan Cooper wields a heavy hand, especially in the pic’s scenery-chewing recreations, and the score is pure treacle. But the film’s take on the immigrant experience is profound: Jian has brought her daughter to America, and regrets that she’s Americanized. Everyone learns a lesson, so edu-circuit play seems a best bet.
As seen through the film’s fairly stiff interview sequences, Jian and daughter Lisa Xia are virtually estranged. Neither understands the other, and neither is to blame: Lisa may be spoiled, but her mother wants to figuratively bind her feet. Via her book, Jian enlightens her daughter as to what life might have been like, and Morgan Cooper tries to put flesh and blood behind a frequently painful family reminiscence, one that covers Mao’s Cultural Revolution, the Great Leap Forward, and the 2008 Bejing Olympics. Everything is overdone, including Jacqueline Bisset’s narration, but the echoes are profound.