Is 'Little Big Women' based on a true story? Here's how director Joseph Chen-chieh Hsu’s grandma inspired him
Spoilers for 'Little Big Women'
Taiwan’s highest-grossing box office film of 2020, 'Little Big Women' first premiered on October 22, 2020, at the Busan International Film Festival in South Korea and definitely hurt some hearts along the way. The movie is based on the personal experiences of director Joseph Chen-chieh Hsu.
Netflix revealed that the film tells the story "of how a family grapples with and eventually accepts the fact that their recently deceased grandfather was having an affair, exploring how the grandmother overcomes this grudge and learns to accept the other woman."
The film follows Tainan restaurant owner Lin Shoying and her three children who get a dose of hard reality when their mother's 70th birthday brings shocking news. Lin's estranged husband Chen Bochang, who has been in a relationship with another woman, died on her birthday. Lin's three children, a dance choreographer, doctor, and the last learning restaurant skills, are left in broken pieces as they try to make sense of the death of their father.
As the movie progresses, the audiences find out along with the characters the many family secrets that history held dear along with learning Lin's relationship with her once husband. Chen, had been a man that didn't love his wife the best he could - he cheated and gambled, but Lin did not divorce him. Hsu, the director of the film has been praised for his work and even received awards for his talent when it comes to his emotionally raw production.
Who is Joseph Chen-chieh Hsu?
Taiwan Docs reveals that Joseph Chen-chieh Hsu pursued an MFA in film production at New York University’s Tisch. The director has been working on short films in Asia, namely Korea, Singapore, Nepal, Taiwan, and Japan. The biography also speaks of the director's short film titled 'The Lobster Kid' that won Best Short at the Asian Film Festival of Dallas and the Best Air Canada Short at the Canada Reelasian Film Festival.
Hsu is also a member of the Tokyo Talent camp. Joseph Chen-Chieh Hsu was nominated for two Golden Horse Awards in 2020, both for 'Little Big Women' - one for Best Adapted Screenplay which he shared with Maya Huang and another for Best New Director. As a producer, his other credits include 'BAO' (2017), 'The Visit' (2018) and 'Big Little Man' (2019). He's has been credited with director and writer credits for 'The Lobster Kid' (2015), 'Guo Mie' and 'Little Big Women'.
Is 'Little Big Women' based on a true story?
While Netflix has revealed that the film is based on the personal experiences of Joseph Chen-chieh Hsu, we wonder if his grandmother is what inspired him for this movie as well. Speaking about the making of his short film 'Guo Mie', Hsu highlighted how his grandmother had inspired him.
When asked how the idea for that film came about, the director answered, "This is a story based on my grandma. She raised eight kids by herself after my grandfather ran away decades ago. The story between my grandma, grandfather, and Aunt Tsai happened when I was in high school. This memory came into my mind when my grandmother passed away in 2014. I think it’s an interesting story to make as my thesis film."
The synopsis of 'Guo Mie' reads, "A 65 years old karaoke-addicted grandma has to deal with her long-lost husband's funeral with her husband's lover." The synopsis for 'Little Big Women' reads, "Family members grapple with the passing of their estranged father and the remnants of the life he led during his absence." While both films are different, they have similar themes of loss, grief and healing.
Hsu also speaks of iconic actress Chen Shu-Fang who played roles both in 'Little Big Women' and 'Guo Mie' saying, "There are a few iconic “grandmother” actresses in Taiwan. Chen Shu-Fang (the grandmother who we ended up casting) was our first choice. She’s worked in tons of award-winning movies, including most of Hou Hsiao-Hsien’s. We were really surprised when she agreed to be in a student indie film."
He also revealed that Shu-Fang used to sing on TV shows in the '70s and her singing in 'GUO MIE' had marked her singing for the first time in the film. In the same interview, Hsu said that he does not believe there is "much difference" in making a film in Taiwan compared to the rest of the world. He did however mention challenges saying, "I needed to speak three different languages to the crew."
"We were composed of New Yorkers, Hong Kongese, and Taiwanese. My AD and I had to communicate with the cast and crew in English, Mandarin, and Taiwanese. The Taiwanese crew are very professional. We’ve had several international productions these days, including LIFE OF PI, SILENCE, and LUCY. My US crew members had a good time shooting in Taiwan."
Catch 'Little Big Women' on Netflix on February 5. Watch the trailer below.