Our Time Machine

By September 27, 2020 No Comments

Our Time Machine is a remarkable film, and one of the best documentaries I’ve seen in a long time.

Directed by Taiwanese-American activist and filmmaker S. Leo Chiang, it is a moving documentary about one of China’s leading conceptual artists, Maleonn, who learns that his father Ma Ke – the former Artistic Director of the Shanghai Chinese Opera – is suffering from Alzheimer’s disease. Shaken by his father’s diagnosis, Maleonn decides to create his most ambitious work ever, Papa’s Time Machine, an autobiographical time-travel adventure with life-size mechanical puppets. As work on the play progresses and Ma Ke’s condition deteriorates, both men confront their relationship and their mortality as time runs out and memories are lost forever.

Beyond the powerful story at the heart of the film, Our Time Machine is especially interesting because it provides Western audiences with a rare behind-the-scenes glimpse at the process of creating a modern production in China:

I think films like this are especially important right now as tensions run high between China and the rest of the world. We need stories like this to remind us that despite whatever societal and political differences exist in the world today, most of the human experience remains universal.

Our intentions in crafting our film are to move others the way it has profoundly moved us. This is an evergreen story, relevant for past and future generations and across cultural divides, so long as there is love between children and their parents. Especially on the international stage, documentaries from China often focus on powerful stories from marginalized classes or persecuted political dissenters, but our film offers an intimate look at a middle-class Chinese family facing issues that audiences around the world can immediately relate to. Our story provides a needed addition to highlight the similarities between people in the West and in China during a time where the political language can be hostile and divisive.

S. Leo Chiang, Director of “Our Time Machine”

Our Time Machine spoke to me personally because I lost my own father over a decade ago, and dearly loved family member is being lost to dementia right now. Whether you’ve had similar experiences yourself, would like a glimpse at life in middle class China today, or just want to watch a beautiful, moving story unfold, I think you’ll really enjoy this.

Our Time Machine will air on PBS’ POV Docs on Monday, September 28th in most of the United States and Canada, and will also be available on DVD and video-on-demand. For details and information about international availability visit

Special thanks to Annie for originally sending this in!