黑血 | Black Blood

Black Blood

Not everything is progress in China. Less and less rain means that the inhabitants of Inner Mongolia have to do everything to survive. For instance, sell their own blood. And in order to sell enough blood, you have to drink. A drama of fate shot in impressively expressive black-and-white. In a remote mountain village in the northwest of China, close to a nuclear test zone, the poverty-stricken Xiaolin sells his blood to pay his daughter’s school fees. Together with his wife Xiaojuan, he tries to set up a business. At first that seems very lucrative, but then fate strikes: it turns out that both Xiaolin and Xiaojuan are infected with HIV. Just like thousands of other poor people, who illegally sell their blood to be able to buy something as essential as water. Black Blood, supported by the Hubert Bals Fund, tells a small and personal story against the background of an ecological disaster. In the valley where the film was shot, there is also in reality no water anymore. ‘Water is more valuable than blood and many villages have already been deserted,’ according to Zhang Miaoyan. Zhang films the poor odd-jobbers for more than two hours in hypnotic black-and-white and – very briefly – in equally stunning colours.

Directed by Miaoyan Zhang | Starring : Mengjuan Liu, Danhui Mao, Yingying | Presented at Rotterdam Film Festival, Kerala Film Festival, Cannes Film Festival, Las Palmas Film Festival, Jeonju Film Festival, Montréal Film Festival, Rome Film Festival, Thessaloniki Film Festival

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落叶归根 | Getting Home

Getting Home

Zhao is an ageing worker who toils away in Shenzen in order to earn a living. When his friend and colleague Wang suddenly dies, Zhao decides to transport his body back to his native town. He purchases two tickets for the cross-country bus, and pretends that his silent travelling companion has drunk so much alcohol that he has fallen unconscious. Shortly afterwards, the bus is attacked by armed bandits. Zhao asks the bandits to kill him first, so that he can stay with his dead friend forever. Touched by this display of loyalty, the robbers decide to let the bus go. But instead of thanking Zhao, the other passengers throw him and his dead friend off the bus. Pretending that his friend is seriously ill and must be taken to hospital immediately, Zhao tries to flag down passing cars. After spending the night in a hotel, Zhao discovers that all his money has been stolen and begins to lose heart. But he refuses to be browbeaten. Whenever he needs money, he rearranges Wong so that he looks like a beggar. And whenever he is hungry, he joins a funeral party and bawls his eyes out so that he can enjoy the food served at the wake. During his odyssey across China Zhao is obliged to get along with all kinds of people. Just before he reaches his destination, the old man and his dead friend are caught in a torrential downpour, so that now Zhao finds himself engaged in a struggle against nature.

Directed by Yang Zhang | Starring : Benshan Zhao, Dandan Song, Degang Guo, Haiying Sun, Ma Wu | Presented at Berlin Film Festival, Bangkok Film Festival, Cinemanila Film Festival, Vladivostok Film Festival, Vancouver Film Festival, Chicago Film Festival, St. Louis Film Festival, Kerala Film Festival, Wisconsin Film Festival, Edmonton Film Festival

爱情的牙齿 | Teeth of Love

Teeth of Love

Zhuang Yuxin’s drama Teeth of Love follows the life of Qian Yehong during three different eras. The film opens with her as a teenager who breaks the heart of a boy in love with her. The next section finds her working as a physician and carrying on a sexual relationship with a man married to a different woman. The third act finds Qian in an unfulfilling marriage.

Directed by Yuxin Zhuang | Starring : Bingyan Yan, Hongtao Li, Naiwen Li, Jia Chi, Jiaojiao Wu | Presented at Montréal Film Festival, Kerala Film Festival, Fribourg Film Festival

生死劫 | Stolen Life

Stolen Life

When Yan’ni starts college she believes she is embarking on a new life away from her family-and she is, but not the new beginning she anticipates. Once at school, she immediately meets Muyu and falls in love with him. What she does not know is that from the moment he met her Muyu began an intricate deception that will lead to the loss of her child and t-he future she believes in.

Directed by Shaohong Li | Starring : Xun Zhou, Jun Wu, Xiaoming Su, Ming Cai, Ni Yan | Presented at Tribeca Film Festival, Kerala Film Festival, Bangkok Film Festival, Wisconsin Film Festival

可可西里 | Mountain Patrol

Mountain Patrol

Kekexili is based on actual events. From Mainland China, the film tells the story of Ga Yu, a reporter from Beijing who in 1996 travels to the eponymous region on the border of Tibet, where some local men have organized a civilian patrol to fight the poachers who are decimating the region’s endangered population of Tibetan antelopes, prized for their pelts, which are then exported, to be sold as (once trendy) shahtoosh shawls. As Ga Yu arrives in a remote town, a member of the patrol has recently been coldly executed by the poachers, and the taciturn leader, Ritai, is heading out on another patrol, determined to find those responsible. Ga Yu convinces Ritai to let him tag along by suggesting that a story in a Beijing newspaper might spur the Chinese government to take more forceful action to protect the antelopes. The group leaves on their perilous, high altitude journey. From the film’s opening, with the aforementioned murder, it’s a harrowing trip. Kekexili captures the deprivation and danger of this harsh land, and the necessary ruggedness of the people who live there, with impeccable clarity. Filmmaker Lu tells his story visually, for the most part, with exemplary economy. He doesn’t spend any more time than needed on characterization. He leaves it to his audience to figure out what motivates Ritai and his team to risk their lives in order to protect the animals. Whatever it is, it’s clear that it goes beyond a mere concern for the environment. Ritai ends up completely possessed with finding the gunmen who slaughtered the most recent herd of antelope. He puts his own and many other lives at risk in this pursuit. At the film’s midpoint, Ritai and his men capture a group of poachers, including a kindly old man who tells the patrolmen that he used to be a shepherd, and was pushed into a life of criminality by hard times. The filmmaker doesn’t judge these characters, any more than he does the film’s would-be heroes. It’s clear that on a thematic level, Lu’s primary interest is human, rather than environmental.

Directed by Chuan Lu | Starring : Duobuji, Lei Chang, Liang Qi, Xueying Zhao, Zhanlin Ma | Presented at Tokyo Film Festival, Sundance Film Festival, Berlin Film Festival, Hong Kong Film Festival, Seattle Film Festival, Cinemanila Film Festival, Montréal Film Festival, Vancouver Film Festival, Warsaw Film Festival, Marrakech Film Festival, Kerala Film Festival

安阳婴儿 | The Orphan of Anyang

Orphan of Anyang

A prostitute from the Northeast, desperate and unable to make ends meet, abandons her baby. An unemployed factory worker decides to take the child for the 200 yuan a month in child support promised by its mother. His early attempts at child-rearing are somewhat painful to watch, but also charming and amusing. Eventually, he and the mother become friendly and it seems that the child will be raised in a sweetly unorthodox family. However, when the woman’s pimp, a local gangster, not only finds out that he may have fathered the child, but also that he is dying of cancer, he decides that he must adopt the baby – and is willing to resort to violence if necessary.

Directed by Chao Wang | Starring : Tianhao Liu, Fuwen Miao, Guilin Sun, Sengyi Yue, Jie Zhu | Presented at Cannes Film Festival, Montréal Film Festival, Telluride Film Festival, Toronto Film Festival, Vancouver Film Festival, Chicago Film Festival, Valladolid Film Festival, Amiens Film Festival, Entrevues Film Festival, Tromso Film Festival, Rotterdam Film Festival, Kerala Film Festival, Buenos Aires Film Festival, Jeonju Film Festival, Karlovy Vary Film Festival, Athens Film Festival, Warsaw Film Festival

洞 | The Hole

The Hole

The Hole uses an enigmatic symbolic language to explore social alienation in the bleak cityscapes of contemporary Taiwan. Seven days before the turn of the millennium, a rain-sodden Taipei City is under siege by a mysterious virus. Symptoms include fever and an acute photophobia that drives sufferers to scuttle like cockroaches in search of dark, isolated hiding places. As a result of ‘Taiwan Fever’ sections of the city are quarantined and their essential services cut off by the government. The film is set in an apartment block in a quarantine zone where residents, played by Lee Kang-Sheng and Yang Kuei-Mei, remain in defiance of quarantine regulations. Yang’s apartment, directly below Lee’s, develops a leak and a plumber in search of the leaking pipe bores a hole in Lee’s floor and Yang’s ceiling. The hole that now joins the two apartments is large enough to see through, and Yang and Lee develop an ambivalent, wordless relationship as a result of their new proximity. Yang succumbs to the virus, and in the final scene, Lee’s arm extends through the hole in her ceiling, offering her a glass of water. Finally, Yang grasps Lee’s arm and is lifted through the hole into the brightly lit offscreen space of Lee’s apartment.

Directed by Ming-liang Tsai | Starring : Kang-sheng Lee, Kuei-Mei Yang, Tien Miao, Hui-Chin Lin, Hsiang-Chu Tong | Presented at Cannes Film Festival, Toronto Film Festival, Vancouver Film Festival, Sitges Film Festival, Chicago Film Festival, London Film Festival, Rotterdam Film Festival, Kerala Film Festival, Singapore Film Festival, Febio Film Festival, Buenos Aires Film Festival, Athens Film Festival