Nele Wohlatz's The Future Perfect (2016), which is receiving an exclusive global online premiere on MUBI, is showing from September 29 - October 29, 2017 as a Special Discovery.
Language determines our thinking. So what happens when, for whatever reason, we move to another country, lose the use of our mother tongue and start to live in a new language? The language books teach us phrases like, “The dog is grey. The cat is white,” or “Mary talks to her clients over the phone and sells plane tickets. She is a travel agent.” We didn’t write these phrases, nor do they necessarily help us in what we actually want to say to express ourselves. They are texts for a role still unknown and therefore uncomfortable to us. It takes weeks or month until an actor assumes ownership of a new character, and even more until an immigrant is able to assume ownership of the role given by his new language. This is what also happened to me right after I moved from Germany to Argentina in 2009. I began to think I would never become part of this society, just like Xiaobin, who once said to me: “When I’m waiting at the bus-stop, I want to look like everybody else. When I have money, I’m going to have my eyes and cheeks operated.”
In Buenos Aires, I started to teach German because somehow I had to pay my rent. The first time I saw Xiaobin, she was performing in a play staged by Chinese students at the language school. She had just begun to study Spanish and it was a tremendous effort for her just to say simple phrases. All of her concentration was focused on her speech; her body only expressed a minimum amount of gestures. Her text was fictitious, but her act of speech was real, a testimony of the inner controversy of her new citizenship, her new language and her new space. It was different from the acting of nonprofessional actors I had seen so far. I wished to make a film entirely acted in that tone. We went through a long process of rehearsals, first with Xiaobin, later on with other Chinese students at the language school, in order to explore this ambiguous speech where you can’t tell if someone is performing a language or a role.
I wrote the script together with Xiaobin, in a process in which she could test and re-invent herself. Consequently, the film also involves her future, just as she imagines it today, constantly introducing variations. I think that in a film with real persons, their imagination and memory should have the same importance as “facts.” It’s Xiaobin’s condition as an immigrant that determines her acting style, the dramatic structure and the film device.