Siqi Song on the Oscar-Nominated ‘Sister’ and the Sibling That Never Was

The premise for Siqi Song’s Oscar-nominated animated short is simple: A Chinese man reflects on his life as a child with an annoying little sister.

Except the audience soon learns his sibling is not even a memory, but rather just a fantasy, because of China’s one-child policy. His parents were forced to abort his sister.

In China, the one-child policy meant that prior to being relaxed in 2015, it was unheard of to have a sibling.

For Song, life was different. She has a sibling and is the second child. Song learned by living in America that it was normal to have a sibling — “or nine.”

“I wanted to tell this story because when my friends found out I had a brother, they always asked what it was like to have a sibling,” Song said.

It was important for Song to share her own experience. Song started writing the story in 2015 while still a student at Cal-Arts.

“I wrote a dozen versions because I had so many stories,” Song said. “In the end, I narrowed it down to three stories; the arrival of the newborn, the siblings at similar ages and growing up.”

Once she had that structure, Song spent a year refining the script. Song uses stop-motion animation and puppets made from wool.

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“Initially, I experimented with clay, but settled on wool because it reminded me of ink paintings,” Song said, explaining that she was inspired by ink paintings as a child and using wool allowed her to tap into visual memories and imagery from growing up.

Song calls her Oscar-nomination greatly encouraging. “I’m still in the early stages of my career,” she said. “So to have this recognition is encouraging me to tell more original stories.”

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