Mahålang

Directed by Elliot deBruyn, Nathaniel Brown, and Caili Quan

Chamorro Filipino choreographer and dancer Caili Quan pays tribute to the family and culture on Guam that sparked her love of music and inspired her dream of dancing. After moving to New York at the age of 16 hoping to dance professionally, she looks back and remembers the emotional tumult of leaving home to be able to do what she loves.

Set over dances choreographed to honor different aspects of Guam’s culture, Caili explores her own heritage through conversations with her mother, aunt, uncle, sister, cousins and friends, reminiscing on cherished memories from the island: familial gatherings replete with food, filled with music and dance shaped by the island’s culture. Each dance is inspired by a different facet of Guam’s culture: oral storytelling, matrilineal roots, the warrior spirit, and the deep importance of family. Through every story and gesture there is a common thread of mahålang, a Chamorro word encompassing the longing and missing of something, someone, or some place.

Weaving a narrative of how collective memory and storytelling preserve where we come from, “Mahålang” is an ode to a home and the longing to return. Combining music from the Pacific, elements of contemporary dance, and reflections of the past, “Mahålang” is a love letter to Guam.

Directed by Elliot deBruyn, Nathaniel Brown, and Caili Quan
Produced by Jason Pizzi

About the filmmakers:

Elliot deBruyn is a filmmaker based in New York and Shanghai, China. He works in documentary, narrative and commercial film as a cinematographer and director. His documentary work in China has been nominated for an Emmy, and his narrative short films were official selections for the Beijing Indie Short Film Festival and the Shanghai International Film Festival. He is continuing to work on experimental documentaries and non-linear forms of storytelling that blur the line between factual mediums and abstract art.

Nathaniel J. Brown is a filmmaker based between China and the United States. His films have screened at the Cannes Film Festival Court Métrage, the Cleveland International Film Festival, Nowness Asia, and the United States Embassy in Beijing; his 2016 short film, “City of Hands,” won Best Documentary Short at the North Bay Art and Film Festival. A Fulbright scholar in 2013, and an Andrew W. Mellon Foundation fellow for research in 2012, Nathaniel seeks to create work that resonates beyond preconceived cultural boundaries.

Caili Quan is a New York-based choreographer who danced with BalletX from 2013 to 2020. She has created works for BalletX, Owen/Cox Dance Group, UC Santa Barbara, Columbia Ballet Collaborative, and Ballet Academy East. She served as an Artistic Partnership Initiative Fellow and Toulmin Creator at The Center for Ballet and the Arts at NYU.

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