Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Film Review: Master Qi And The Monkey King (Alan Govenar)

Charles A. Smith

Alan Govenar's Master Qi and the Monkey King is a documentary that chronicles the beautiful and compelling Chinese Opera. Qi Shu Fang is one of the most prominent masters of Chinese Opera, who made the tough choice to stay in the United States and act as a cultural liaison between the cultures. Master Qi and her husband Ding Mei-kui and their company of Chinese Opera performers spread knowledge and beauty about the ancient art form of Peking Opera. Balancing modern life and her love for ancient tradition, she and her husband work and live in Queens NY, in a section of the city that now has many Chinese and Asian immigrants. This documentary shows the hard work and dedication that are demanded by this art form, as well as its' nature and perfection. This is carried over to the performers that work with and for her. 

It's enchanting to watch the excerpts from various operas and the time at work the artists put in after working other jobs. Qi's movements are exquisite and brilliant. There's also footage from the early days of her career as a prodigy finishing her schooling in three years instead of the five that was normally required. She spent her early years doing plays for the central government and the "Modern Model Play Company", then ventured into films. "Taking Tiger Mountain", in which she plays Little Changbao, a strong female character, propelled her to even higher levels of fame. Now years later, Master Qi is just as powerful and engaging as she ever was, if not more so. To be a performer of this type, one must be an acrobat,  martial artist, singer, dancer, actor, and more. What this incredible documentary does is allow the uninitiated to develop an interest in Chinese Opera, while aficionados gain further insight into a wonderful art form and one of the masters of it. This is one 200 year old tradition that you shouldn't waste another day to see! Very highly recommended!!  

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