From Belgium, Jialai Wang maintains contact via smartphone and camera with her mother and grandmother in China. When her grandmother’s health deteriorates, Jialai returns to Shanghai, but when she arrives, her grandmother has already died, and she is left alone with her mother. A devout Buddhist, her mother seems to pay more attention to her daily prayers, Maoist past and dog Dongdong than she does to her daughter. She herself had been abandoned as a child by her own mother, when she divorced Jialai’s grandfather and moved to the city.
The first half of Paragate (Sanskrit for “gone to the other shore”) is chiefly composed of shots of cracked smartphone screens and picture-in-picture video, as Jialai communicates with China from Europe. In the second part, Jialai also observes the people and events in the neighborhood where she grew up. She thus captures both life and death, the domestic and the public, in a poignant portrait of three generations of women who seem to have had little regard for one another, but still try to offer each other support.