Often unspoken but always understood is the notion that editors are the professionals who are asked to clean up the mess and fashion something cohesive and marvelous for a film. Far from resenting this, editor Sijie Liu (also known as Leslie Liu) revels in it. She states, “I think this process is one of the most interesting parts of post-production. You’ll find that there are many more possibilities for the film than you’d thought.” Approached by director Karin Zhao to edit her film Margie’s Christmas Eve, Leslie states, “Karin Zhao is the first female director I worked with. She’s a very visual person who had designed some elaborate transitions between scenes which needed visual effects for this film and I was excited to help her achieve that.” This dark comedy about a family of three would be sobering in other hands but Leslie’s comedic instincts have sculpted this unorthodox holiday tale into one which elicits belly laughs and guffaws. The Canadian Diversity Film Festival awarded Ms. Liu Best Editing for Margie’s Christmas Eve to show their admiration for her abilities on this production.
When Karin Zhao described the transitions she wanted for the scenes in Margie’s Christmas Eve to Leslie, the editor confirmed that they were possible if shot in a certain manner. When the footage was not captured according to this plan, it forced Ms. Liu to exercise her problem-solving prowess during post production in order to attain the original vision. A viewing of the film easily relays how essential these transitions are to the tone which was attained. There’s an uncommon paring of slow motion to the comedy premises found in the story. Though there’s the potential with this approach to slow down or even impede the humor of the scenarios unfolding, Leslie has set a pace in which the slow motion ironically serves to propel the laughs elicited.
The attempts of Christmas films of the 1940s and 1950s to portray the perfect family experience have given way to those of the modern era which celebrate an almost hyperbolic portrayal of a dysfunctional family in these moments. Margie’s Christmas Eve certainly represents the latter. While Margie’s father conceals heroin in his daughter’s teddy bear Christmas presents, her mother has incorporated a stuffed animal into her extramarital activities. Even the young girl who is the namesake of the film is disturbing in her delightful hacking of these stuffed bears into pieces with almost berserker like enthusiasm. Everyone has their secrets in this film; even though they come to light, the ability of each to ignore these revelations in deference to the façade of a happy family is astonishing. Thankfully, it’s incredibly humorous due to the pacing and tone Leslie has established.
As the parents are utilizing the stuffed teddy bears for their immoral ends, the fast cuts and funny music construct the ideal counterpoint to let the viewer know it’s acceptable to laugh at such audacious actions. Conversely, the slow cuts and looming silence of the family meals exacerbates the uncomfortability of a family who would rather not face the truth. During the film’s final scene, the family takes a Christmas photo to cement their “happy moment”, the choice of Ms. Liu to remove all dialogue and present this scene in slow motion with only audible music emphasizes the absurdity of the situation. It’s no surprise that this delighted the Vegas Movie Awards and resulted in awarding Best Indie Short to Margie’s Christmas Eve. The film owes so much of its rebellious and wild personality to Leslie Liu’s delightful and playful interpretation of the holiday season. A Margie Christmas Eve to all!