For thousands of years, women in China, who were often forced into oppressive marriages and forbidden to read or write, shared a secret language among themselves called Nushu. Written with delicate strokes made from sharpened bamboo sticks dipped in ink, Nushu bonded generations of Chinese women in a clandestine support system of sisterhood and survival. Fast forward to contemporary China, where two modern women are connected by their fascination with Nushu. In Jiangyong, Hu Xin works as a Nushu museum guide and aspires to master the ancient script following the breakup of her marriage. In Shanghai, Simu is passionate about music and Nushu, but archaic expectations threaten to end her pursuit of both. Influenced by Nushu’s legacy of female solidarity, the two women struggle to find balance as they forge their own paths in a culture steeped in female subservience to men.
Offering a unique lens through which to view women’s equality, this fascinating film also explores the increasing commercialization of the deeply private Nushu language in direct opposition to its heart-wrenching origins. Filmmaker Violet Feng captures small revealing moments with gentle grace, culminating in a powerful resonance that lingers. —Andrea Passafiume
Violet Du Feng is an Emmy® winning documentary filmmaker and a 2018 Sundance Creative Producing Fellow. Her producing credits include Singing in the Wilderness, Confucian Dream, Maineland, and Please Remember Me. Her career started as a co-producer on the 2007 Sundance and Peabody winner Nanking. Hidden Letters is her directorial debut.