×

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.

Popular on Variety

“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.”

More Artisans

  • John Singleton Victoria Mahoney Spike Lee

    In Honor of Black History Month, a Look at Black Directors Who Made History

    In 2019, the USC Annenberg Inclusion Initiative reported that 2018 was a historic year for black filmmakers, noting a “record high when it came to hiring black directors.” The report reflected a significant change, showing the push for diversity both behind and in front of the camera. Though the numbers are increasing, the report also [...]

  • Mychael Danna Billion Dollar Composer

    Mychael Danna Is the Man Behind the Music of 'Onward' and a Billion-Dollar Composer

    Mychael Danna may be the leading proponent of musical multiculturalism in film music. An Oscar winner for “Life of Pi,” an Emmy winner for “World Without End,” composer of scores as diverse as “Moneyball” and “Girl Interrupted,” he often blends ethnic sounds with a traditional orchestra in ways that few would dare attempt. Pixar’s new [...]

  • Benh Zeitlin Wendy Movie BTS

    Benh Zeitlin Goes Old-School With Stunts and Puppets for His Peter Pan Film 'Wendy'

    It has taken eight years for Benh Zeitlin to deliver the follow-up to his Oscar-nominated 2012 feature debut “Beasts of the Southern Wild.” But you could say the idea for “Wendy,” which reimagines the classic “Peter Pan” from the viewpoint of his female friend (played by first-time actor Devin France), has been percolating far longer [...]

  • the photograph

    'The Photograph' Director Stella Meghie on the Unbearable Weight of Representation

    “The Photograph” is about to enter its third week in theaters. My head’s still spinning from the reviews and Twitter response — but let’s pretend I don’t read those. Folks have been kind to the film and I’m grateful. There’s unbearable weight called representation that lodged itself against my shoulders dropping a film during Black [...]

  • A still from Miles Davis: Birth

    Film Editor Lewis Erskine on Finding the Rhythm for Miles Davis Doc 'Birth of the Cool'

    On-the-beat editing for the documentary “Miles Davis: Birth of the Cool” comes courtesy of Lewis Erskine who brings rhythm to the images apace with that perfect flow of the jazz icon’s horn. The film premiered at the Sundance Film Festival in 2019 and earned a nomination at the NAACP’s 2020 Image Awards for outstanding documentary [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content