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A cathartic documentary exploring identity of Chinese British woman and her relationship with past

Tough is a first film by London based animator Jennifer Zhang, a member of Moth animation studio. Zhang chose a difficult subject of uncovering a family past but as she says, she wanted to convey the catharsis of trying to understand her parents as people:

'I was at a point in my life where I was starting to question my identity and race as a British Born Chinese woman. I was reading a lot of social justice tumblr blogs, researching race in media for my dissertation and I found this wonderful episode of This American Life, #567 Whats going on in there? about this Asian American guy questioning his own identity. I was also talking to a therapist about my childhood and she gave me the verbal tools to ask my mum questions in a non- accusatory way. All these influences made it feel like I could make a film about this topic and also gave me the courage to interview my mum.' 

“ Yeah...strong. I’m strong? I guess you should say that, your mum is pretty strong”

Aside from a challenging subject, Zhang spent many hours on the meticulous animation process.

'The shadows and pencil textures are a result of me printing every frame of animation out, animating the shadows on tracing paper on top and then scanning it back in again. Which is about 4000 unique drawings.' 

The most important moment came when discussing with her mother the perception of herself as a strong woman:

'I really like the bit where she says “ Yeah.. Strong. I’m Strong? I guess you should say that, your mum is pretty strong”. That section was really important to me and it’s also where the title of the film comes from.'