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Individuals of all economic strata are shedding their jobs, hometowns, and lifestyle to embrace a wider experience and a more meaningful existence.

Mosuo Sisters

Mosuo SistersSituated near the border of Tibet in the Yunnan and Sichuan provinces, the Mosuo are possibly the most famous matriarchal society in the world. They live in the Xiaolianghshan Mountains of the Yunnan province of South East China.

The Mosuo are closely related to Tibetans, but in their social system, paternity and marriage are not regarded the same as they are in our world, with the main pillar of the family being the mother.

In the Mosuo language there is not a word for rape - even though rape does exist - but its incidence is far less common than in other cultures. The woman is quite clearly at the center of the Mosuo culture.

Traditionally, when a Mosuo woman who is interested in a particular man, she will invite him to come and spend the night with her. These get togethers are conducted secretly - with the man walking to her house after dark, spending the night with her, and returning home early the next morning.

Sex is practiced freely - they only have to choose the partner that they wish to spend the night with - only incest is forbidden.

Mosuo SistersTypical marriage and fidelity are something like heresy. The family units can join three women generations with their sons. Grandmothers, mothers and daughters may live together in the same house, without the presence of any fathers or husbands. Only uncles, brothers, sons and nephews are happily accepted.

Obviously, they don't seem to present signs of jealousy. The western scenarios of love tragedies of revengeful or victimized lovers are a source of laughter to the Mosuo. They think the visitor is kidding them when they hear about it - "How is it possible to end your precious life for something so banal as sex?"

The Mosuo live with extended family in large households; at the head of each is a matriarch. Lineage is traced through the female side of the family, and property passed down along the same matri-line. Mosuo women typically handle business decisions and men handle politics. Children are raised in the mother’s household, and take her name.

The Mosuo have “walking marriages,” in that there is no marraige institution and women choose their partners by literally walking to the man’s home and sleeping with him. Couples never live together. Since the child always remains in the mother’s care, sometimes the father plays little role in the upbringing.

In some cases the identity of the father is not even known. Instead, the male’s childrearing responsibilities remain in his own matrilineal household.

Mosuo SistersAward-winning director Marlo Poras (Mai’s America), whose work has been cited by the Los Angeles Times and featured at the South by Southwest Festival, creates yet another beautiful documentary with her portrait of two young Mosuo women in China, where the rippling effects of the 2009 economic downturn have been felt from countryside to city.

Having lost the only paying jobs they have ever known because of Beijing’s shrinking economy, sisters Jua Ma and La Tsuo (part of the Mosuo minority) return to their distant home near the Himalayan foothills.

The Mosuo people are one of the world’s last matriarchal societies, but the everyday life of a female Mosuo is filled with the same challenges of other women of the modern world, as this remarkable film makes clear.

Back in their village, the two sisters must now choose a new future in order to support the family. While the elder Jua Ma pursues a singing career, La Tsuo remains at the family farm, despite her ambitions for the city life and a career beyond laboring in the fields.

Here, family and sisterly sacrifice is set at the intersection of two markedly different Chinas.

Mosuo SistersThe Mosuo Sisters

Executive Producer: David Sutherland

Producer: Yu Yingwu Chou, Marlo Poras

Writer: Al Go

Editor: Amy Foote

Sound: Jim Sullivan

Music: Shawn James Seymour

Cinematographer: Marlo Poras

Mosuo SistersMarlo Poras is the Producer/Director of this film and she began her film career as an apprentice to Thelma Schoonmaker at Martin Scorcese's Cappa productions and worked in the editing room on independent features. Later, she was living in Vietnam, producing HIV/AIDS education films when she was inspired to make Mai's America, her first film.

Mai's America aired on P.O.V. to much critical acclaim, winning numerous awards, including Best Feature Documentary from the IDA. Marlo's next film, Run Granny Run, traveled to dozens of festivals and aired on HBO. Marlo is the recipient of a Guggenheim Fellowship.

Yu Ying Wu Chou is also the Producer of this film and she studied media and advertising before transitioning into documentary film editing. She spent five years collaborating with David Sutherland on his six hour FRONTLINE series, Country Boys, which aired nationally on PBS in January 2006.

She was a co-editor on HBO's Run Granny Run and was also editor on Sutherland's Independent Lens/FRONTLINE series A Kind Hearted Woman, which aired on PBS in 2013. She is directing her first documentary film in Taiwan.

Mosuo SistersThe Independent Television Service (ITVS) funds, presents, and promotes award-winning documentaries and dramas on public television and cable, innovative new media projects on the Web, and the Emmy Award-winning weekly series Independent Lens Monday nights at 10:00 PM on PBS.

ITVS International is a division of the Independent Television Service that runs the Global Perspectives Project (GPP), an international exchange of documentary films made by independent producers, bringing international voices to U.S. audiences and American stories to audiences abroad.

ITVS receives core funding from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, a private corporation funded by the American people. The GPP is made possible through the support of Ford Foundation, the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, Wyncote Foundation, and Doris Duke Foundation for Islamic Art.

See trailers from the film at www.itvs.org




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