Malaysian New Wave filmmaker Chui Mui Tan screened her new short I Am the Beauty of Your Beauty, I Am the Fear of Your Fear last week as part of the latest edition of Miu Miu’s acclaimed Women’s Tales series. The star-studded screening took place in Shanghai and was attended by some of China’s most fashionable, dressed, of course, in head to toe Miu Miu. 

The film is the latest in a line of 27 “cinematic universes” that have been created over the years for the fashion house, who ask both legendary and up-and-coming women filmmakers to shoot a short film featuring their clothing line. The filmmakers and films collected are each utterly unique and broad in perspective, but the prompt has by and large remained the same: How do you define womanhood in the 21st century? Past years have seen the likes of Isabel Sandoval, Alice Rohrwacher, Naomi Kawase, Agnès Varda, Miranda July and more paint the screen with their own portraits of femininity. 

It’s a bold and radical project by the fashion house that, since 2011, has aimed to empower women filmmakers by giving them a platform to express their womanhood through an impressionist lens, ensuring that each entry feels totally singular, but no less relevant than any of the others that have come before it. Chui Mui Tan’s I Am the Beauty of Your Beauty, I Am the Fear of Your Fear is no exception to the rule, combining the filmmaker’s well-documented love of martial arts (her previous feature Barbarian Invasion would make for an apt double feature here) with a narrative of self-discovery and affirmation. 

The film stars Sdanny Lee as Gita, a Chinese woman in Malaysia who, haunted by past trauma, joins an intense all-female martial-arts training course. She soon finds that intense sparring with the team’s other members offers a form of therapy that extends beyond the physical, and she soon finds herself reckoning with her own identity in the process.

The fight choreography in I Am the Beauty of Your Beauty is electric, but Chui Mui and cinematographer Parinee Buthrasri soften the blows by capturing the gracefulness of the sport with a quietly sensitive touch. Though the film is deeply physical, there’s a spiritual energy permeating underneath every frame, with Chui Mui interspersing Gita’s training with intimate conversations with an Indian flower seller, who tells her about the ancient myth of Kali, the goddess of time, destruction, death and change. 

“The search [for herself] can only be found inwards”, Chui Mui says of her heroine’s journey. “Through wrestling with what we fear most, we find our inner strength, and we find our own beauty.” In the film’s riveting climax, Gita enters an underground martial arts tournament where she faces only men, and her inner struggle is brought to its triumphant crescendo. The finale, ripe with both action and introspection, cements I Am the Beauty of Your Beauty, I Am the Fear of Your Fear as a refreshing entry in Miu Miu’s Womens Tales oeuvre, while also building on Chui Mui Tan’s recent interest in bringing the physical and the spiritual together in glorious symbiosis.

I Am the Beauty of Your Beauty, I Am the Fear of Your Fear is available to watch on MUBI.

You can read our previous year’s coverage of Miu Miu’s ‘Women’s Tales’ here.