一代宗师 | The Grandmaster

The Grandmaster

With martial arts getting more popular in the Thirties, more people seek to learn them via the professionals at Foshan in Southern China. Some of the experienced masters like to challenge their counterparts and undergoing battles. To have their whole concentration, it is their practice to lock up the venues and no one is allowed to leave during battles. No food and no rest before reaching any results. Ip Man is a young rich man extremely talented in martial arts, but he chooses to keep a low profile. Yet this doesn’t keep him out of these troubles ahead. One day he is trapped in this battleground so he has to use every means in order to get out of there. The masters are amazed by his abilities. Master Kung and his daughter Kung Yi are amongst, and the latter is attracted to this newcomer. A high warlord is assassinated by his own guard Yi Xian Tian. All masters in Foshan vow to take Tian down no matter what.

Directed by Kar Wai Wong | Starring : Tony Leung Chiu Wai, Ziyi Zhang, Chen Chang, Benshan Zhao, Hye-kyo Song | Presented at Berlin Film Festival, Belgrade Film Festival, Hong Kong Film Festival

白鹿原 | White Deer Plain

White Deer Plain

Wang Quan’an’s epic takes place towards the end of imperial China in a period of dramatic political and social upheaval. The film is set in the eponymous White Deer Village in Shaanxi Province where the two most important families – Bai and Lu – and their sons have always lived together in peace. But the turmoil leads to a fierce struggle for land ownership. A young woman new to the village soon finds herself caught between the two camps. Director Wang Quan’an uses the story of these two families as a metaphor for the fate of the Chinese people as first Chinese war lords are overrun by Japanese invaders, then civil war follows hot on the heels of the Second World War and finally the victorious Maoists begin waving their red flags. White Deer Plain is an adaptation of an historical novel of the same name by Chen Zhongshi which was blacklisted for many years on account of its explicit sex scenes. As in his earlier works Tuya’s Marriage and Apart Together, Wang Quan’an’s new work focuses once again on the fortunes of a female protagonist. Using her beauty as a way of gaining influence and a means of survival, the heroine of his latest film nonetheless manages to remain true to herself and those she loves.

Directed by Quan’an Wang | Starring : Fengyi Zhang, Kitty Zhang Yuqi, Gang Wu, Wei Liu, Taisheng Chen | Presented at Berlin Film Festival, Hong Kong Film Festival, Montréal Film Festival

赵氏孤儿 | Sacrifice

Sacrifice

For more than four generations the members of the Zhao clan have held the highest positions in the land. Zhao Dun is currently chancellor and his son, Zhao Shuo, a general in the royal army. He is married to the king’s older sister, Zhuang Ji. Tu’an Gu, the Zhao’s arch-enemy, is not content to accept the clan’s power and influence; he incites a massacre which decimates the entire Zhao clan – over 300 members of this family fall victim to the carnage which leaves no-one alive. As her husband faces death, Zhuang Ji goes into labour and gives birth to the last Zhao. She dies in childbirth and the doctor, Cheng Ying, takes the baby into his care. This news reaches Tu’an Gu and, angered that his plan to wipe out the clan might be thwarted, he takes all the babies of the city hostage until the last descendant of the Zhao is found. The doctor Cheng Ying has also just become a father. When Tu’an Gu’s soldiers arrive to take away his son, his wife hides her own child and gives the soldiers the little Zhao, pretending that he is her child. Shortly afterwards they find the baby that Cheng Ying’s wife was hiding. Taking him to be the last member of the Zhao clan, Tu’an Gu has the boy killed. The townsfolk’s children that were being held hostage are given back to their families. The last Zhao now grows up as Cheng Ying’s son in the doctor’s house. Years go by. Cheng Ying decides to take his step-son with him to serve at Tu’an Gu’s court. Tu’an Gu becomes a patron of the last Zhao. But Cheng Ying has other plans in mind – plans in which his step-son will play a central role.

Directed by Kaige Chen | Starring : You Ge, Xueqi Wang, Fengyi Zhang, Xiaoming Huang, Bingbing Fan | Presented at Berlin Film Festival, Mill Valley Film Festival, Rio de Janeiro Film Festival, Abu Dhabi Film Festival, Chicago Film Festival

山楂树之恋 | Under the Hawthorn Tree

Under the Hawthorne Tree

The People’s Republic of China during the Cultural Revolution. Jing, a college student from town, is sent to a remote mountain village for ‘reeducation’. Jing is the personification of innocence. But her father has been put behind bars for being a ‘counter-revolutionary’ and so now Jing’s mother must try to support her three children on her own. Jing knows that not only her own future but that of her family now depends on how the authorities judge her efforts to be ‘reeducated’. Jing’s careful and inconspicuous behaviour comes to an end, however, when she falls in love with Sun, the engaging son of a high ranking officer. Given their completely different backgrounds, their love is not only hopeless, it is also dangerous. But their mutual attraction proves to be stronger than any of these obstacles. At first Jing resists Sun’s advances, but he refuses to give up, even when she returns to town. Before long, the two young people are passionately – but secretly – in love. Nobody must find out – least of all Jing’s mother, who already fears for her daughter’s future. But then Sun suddenly disappears, and when he reappears, something about him has changed. Jing has to rethink her perception of love, honour and loyalty. And stand up for her real beliefs.

Directed by Yimou Zhang | Starring : Dongyu Zhou, Shawn Dou, Meijuan Xi, Xuejian Li, Taisheng Chen | Presented at Pusan Film Festival, Berlin Film Festival, Melbourne Film Festival, Rio de Janeiro Film Festival, Valladolid Film Festival, Tateshina Kogen Film Festival

岁月神偷 | Echoes of the Rainbow

Echoes of the Rainbow

Told through the eyes of sticky-fingered eight-year-old boy Big Ears, Echoes of the Rainbow takes place in a close-knit grassroots community in 1960s Hong Kong. Big Ears’ mother and father run the neighborhood shoe store, and his older brother Desmond  is every family’s dream son – an outstanding athlete with grades worthy of Hong Kong’s best school. Their lives aren’t always happy, but the family sticks together through all the rough times, no matter how bad it gets.

Directed by Alex Law | Starring : Simon Yam, Sandra Ng Kwan Yue, Buzz Chung, Aarif Rahman, Paul Chun | Presented at Berlin Film Festival, Hong Kong Film Festival, Changchun Film Festival

团圆 | Apart Together

Apart Together

Over fifty years after the proclamation of the People’s Republic of China on the Chinese mainland and the founding of the island republic of Taiwan, permission is given for the first time for a group of ex-soldiers of the National People’s Party or Kuomintang to travel from Taiwan to China and be reunited with family members in Shanghai. These soldiers fought bitterly against Communist troops during China’s civil war from 1927 onwards, until they were forced to retreat to Taiwan in 1949. One of the comrades-in-arms travelling with the group to his former home in Shanghai is an ageing soldier named Lui Yansheng. His reason for embarking on this journey is not to see the family members he left behind on the mainland but to find the one and only love of his life, Qiao Yu’e, whom he was obliged to leave behind in Shanghai without a word of farewell, and their son, who was born after he took flight. After having made contact via letter, he manages to arrange a meeting during which he quickly realises that Qiao Yu’e, who has founded a family with an officer in the People’s Liberation Army, still feels the same way about him as before. It’s not hard for Liu Yangsheng to persuade his former partner to go back with him to Taiwan. He hopes that, by promising to leave his entire savings to her husband and their children, he will be able to secure the family’s agreement. But his proposal gives rise to a huge outcry in the family. Qiao Yu’e situation would seem to be quite hopeless – until her husband suffers a brain haemorrhage and almost dies…

Directed by Quan’an Wang | Starring : Lisa Lu, Feng Ling, Cai-gen Xu, Monica Mok, Xiaotian Mo | Presented at Berlin Film Festival, Melbourne Film Festival, San Sebastian Film Festival, Sao Paulo Film Festival, Palm Springs Film Festival

三枪拍案惊奇 | A Woman, a Gun and a Noodle Shop

A Woman, a Gun and a Noodle Shop

Master director Yimou Zhang tackles an adaptation of the Coen brothers’ classic Blood Simple in this period dramedy full of slapstick and plot twists. When the owner of a Chinese noodle shop attempts to kill his adulterous wife, the fireworks fly. The proprietor also hopes to eliminate his wife’s woebegone lover, but complications and high-flying action arise courtesy of a rampaging band of feudal soldiers and the shop’s wacky employees.

Directed by Yimou Zhang | Starring : Honglei Sun, Ni Yan, Xiao Shen-Yang, Dahong Ni, Benshan Zhao | Presented at Berlin Film Festival, Athens Film Festival, Helsinki Film Festival, Rio de Janeiro Film Festival, Edmonton Film Festival, Sitges Film Festival, Sao Paulo Film Festival, Mar del Plata Film Festival