Embrace chaos. The difference in defeat and greatness is in your decision to reframe the task in front of you. What appears at first to be an enormous obstacle may in fact be that which propels you into greatness. Editor Tianying Jiang resoundingly agrees with this notion as it has been proven in her work on the film My Wife is a Chicken. It has recently been confirmed as an Official Selection of the Cannes Short Film Festival, held September 5 – 8 at Cinéma Pathé Masséna, Nice. This famed festival is known the world over for presenting cinematic excellence and talent to the film community and the public. In addition to the prestige of its inclusion in the CSFF, Jiang’s editing work on My Wife is a Chicken was awarded the Platinum Remi for best editing in shorts at 52nd WorldFest Houston; not surprising as she was responsible for resurrecting the film from a seemingly certain demise. When the film’s male lead pulled out well into production, director Jingjue Li turned to Tianying to manifest a drastically different approach for the story. The production’s decision to welcome this new path shows their artistic tenacity and brilliance.
What happened during the production of My Wife is a Chicken is not unheard of but is nearly cataclysmic. While well underway, the male lead left the film. The director found a wonderful actor to step in; one who just happened to be female. Though the same sex marriage scenario is not a problem thematically, it did present the problem of how to make sense of the substantial portion of the film already shot with a husband. The director turned to Tianying to manifest a cohesive story. Contrary to what one might expect, the editor reveled in this situation. She relates, “The coolest thing I have ever faced is when this director just sat there and said to me, ‘We have a gender change for one of the primary actors during production…now I just want the story to make sense.’ She left me alone in the editing room to experience the pain and the joy of fixing this…and I am incredibly grateful for this sign of trust.” She continues stating, “I used all the footage I had, rearranging the set-ups and the scenes; eventually creating a total new beginning for the story.” Through this creative approach and the utilization of voice-overs and other tools, Jiang took the pieces of a jigsaw puzzle and fashioned her own vision that resembled an early iteration but was something altogether fresh.
The resulting plot seems ideal, as if it was the planned from the beginning. Bella and Alice seem like any ordinary couple with one spouse working furiously and the other feeling amorous. When advances are rejected, there is tension. Alice’s subsequent disappearance timed with the presence of a chicken results in a police investigation. Through it all, Bella (and the audience) are led to question their belief in what is possible in this world. A therapist, a former partner, and the authorities are all a part of one of the most original “where did she go” stories ever told. Humor and heartbreak are ideal complements in cinema and My Wife is a Chicken has paired them exceptionally well, due in large part to the skill and creativity of editor Tianying Jiang. Just as film festival audiences have done, you’ll laugh and cry when watching this movie. Most certainly, you’ll never look at a chicken the same way.