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Directed by Chang Ming Yu

First Runner-up, Chinese Doc Competition, 2019 Hong Kong International Documentary Festival

Chen-yun returns home for the first time in five years. The reason: to deal with the fallout of her estranged mother’s deep involvement in a cult responsible for her younger brother’s violent death. It’s a premise that could easily be shrugged off for its sensationalist true crime proclivities, yet first-time filmmaker and Chen-yun’s art school classmate, Chang Ming Yu, has produced a work of remarkable grace and sensibility that confronts its tragic subject matter with profound empathy and a surprising levity.

With the trial and sentencing of her mother coinciding with the birth of Chen-yun’s first child, the film peers into the flows of life and death, and the curious and imperceptible ways in which we find space to heal and forgive. Present only through his calm, disembodied voice, Chang blurs the distinctions between filmmaker and friend, offering a sincere kinship and sense of care that sees Chen-yun through interrupted grief–subjected to the imposing eye of a vulturine news media and a messy court case–and the marvelous joy of birthing new life. Following the family during the brief intermediate period before the mother’s imprisonment, THE REASON WHY I’M HOME. manages to capture the gut-wrenching rawness of loss and the process of finding light in times of immense darkness.

Justin Nguyen