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

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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

荆轲刺秦王 | The Emperor and the Assassin

The Emperor and the Assassin

A lavishly produced historical drama from China, The Emperor and the Assassin tells the complex, multi-facetted story of the man who became the first Emperor of a unified China, another man who has sworn to kill him, and a woman who is loved by both men. Late in the Third Century B.C., when China was comprised of seven rival kingdoms, Ying Zheng was the leader of Qin. Ying Zheng had a dream in which he joined together the seven kingdoms into a single utopian state, and taking this as a mandate from God, he invaded the nearby state of Han as the first step toward this goal. However, not everyone in the neighboring states was happy with Ying Zheng’s crusade, which seemed to indicate a lengthy war with many casualties. Lady Zhao, Ying’s lover, devised a scheme to help Ying Zheng take over the nearby and uncooperative state of Yan; she fabricated a fake assassination plot against him, and framed the leader of Yan, once Ying Zheng’s childhood friend, as the man behind the murderous plot. However, Lady Zhao did not choose the would-be assassin wisely; while Jing Ke loved her and was willing to do her bidding, Jing Ke’s previous assassination assignment caused the unintended death of an innocent blind girl, which left him full of regret and a bit unstable. When Jing Ke learned a closely guarded secret about Ying Zheng’s past, he became blindly determined to kill the would-be emperor, whatever the cost.

Directed by Kaige Chen | Starring : Li Gong, Fengyi Zhang, Xuejian Li, Yongfei Gu, Zhiwen Wang | Presented at Cannes Film Festival, Toronto Film Festival, AFI Film Festival, Reykjavik Film Festival, Thessaloniki Film Festival

诱僧 | Temptation of a Monk

Temptation of a Monk

Near the beginning of the Tang dynasty, in 7th century China, General Shi Yan-sheng is tricked into leaving the crown prince unguarded. The crown prince is murdered by one of his brothers who then becomes emperor. Shi retreats to a monastery, perhaps to hide, perhaps to plan a coup. When his loyal troops as well as the princess he desires are slain, he seeks refuge in a remote, abandoned monastery where an aged abbot schools him with practical, earthy teachings. The emperor’s forces pursue Shi: first a woman, then a general seek to overpower him with lust and might. Over the course of the film, the reds of battle give way to blues of meditation.

Directed by Clara Law | Starring : Joan Chen, Hsing-kuo Wu, Fengyi Zhang, Lisa Lu, Ming-yang Li | Presented at Venice Film Festival, Toronto Film Festival, Stockholm Film Festival, Sundance Film Festival

蓝风筝 | The Blue Kite

The Blue Kite

Told from the perspective of a young boy, Tietou, this film traces the fate of a Beijing family and their neighbors as they experience the political and social upheavals in the 1950s and 1960s China.

Directed by Zhuangzhuang Tian | Starring : Liping Lü, Cunxin Pu, Xuejian Li, Xiaoying Song, Ping Zong | Presented at Toronto Film Festival, Chicago Film Festival, New York Film Festival, Tokyo Film Festival, Hawaii Film Festival

霸王别姬 | Farewell My Concubine

Farewell my Concubine

Farewell My Concubine is a 1993 Chinese film directed by Chen Kaige, is one of the central works of the Fifth Generation movement that brought Chinese film directors to world attention. Similar to other Fifth Generation films like To Live and The Blue Kite, Farewell My Concubine explores the effect of China’s political turmoil during the mid-20th century on the lives of individuals, families, and groups, in this case, two stars in a Peking opera troupe and the woman who comes between them. The film is an adaptation of the novel by Lilian Lee. Lilian Lee is also one of the film’s screenplay writers.

Directed by Kaige Chen | Starring : Leslie Cheung, Fengyi Zhang, Li Gong, You Ge, Wenli Jiang | Presented at Cannes Film Festival, Telluride Film Festival, Toronto Film Festival, Chicago Film Festival, Tokyo Film Festival, New York Film Festival

骆驼祥子 | Rickshaw Boy

Rickshaw Boy

Xiang Zi was a rickshaw boy who was always having a desire to excel and thirst for freedom. He got married with Hu Niu who unfortunately died of dystocia later. After Hu Niu died, another girl Xiao Fuzi fell in love with Xiang Zi but they were separated by poverty. Xiang Zi worked very hard in order to change his life, but only to find that Xiao Fuzi was dead when he just began to get hopeful for their future. Finally, Xiang Zi, a unflinching man, surrendered to that dark society.

Directed by Zifeng Ling | Starring : Fengyi Zhang, Gaowa Siqin, Bide Yan, Zongxiang Guan, Ziyue Zhao | Presented at Chicago Film Festival