孔雀 | Peacock

Peacock

Whereas most Chinese art house movies do actual medical damage to viewers with their chic nihilism and long, boring shots of people riding around in trucks, Peacock is a balm for your soul. The Cultural Revolution is China ‘s national trauma, a harrowing decade of turmoil and destruction where everyone just tried to hold on and survive, and when it ended in 1976 millions emerged blinking into the sunlight, astounded that they were still standing. Peacock follows an average family in the average town of Henyang through the eight years after the end of the Cultural Revolution as they pick up their lives as if nothing happened. It’s a great leap forward for the three adult children of the Gao clan. Anchored by a series of family meals, the kids are trying to make it in the world – Weihong, the daughter has to learn that her dream man isn’t going to solve all her problems; eldest brother Weiguo is a simple-minded fat guy who’s an unmarriageable weight around his parents’ necks; and the middle son, Weiqiang, is the typical middle child, narrating the movie and taking every injustice in life as a personal affront. A two-hour plus movie about a family in post-Revolutionary China sounds deadly, but in the hands of Gu Changwei it becomes essential viewing for the dejected, downtrodden and just plain weary. This is a film that traffics in the belief that it doesn’t matter how bad today gets because as long as we’re alive there’s always the hope for a better tomorrow.

Directed by Changwei Gu | Starring : Jingchu Zhang, Yulai Lu, Li Feng, Meiying Huang, Yiwei Zhao | Presented at Berlin Film Festival. Helsinki Film Festival, Brothers Manaki Film Festival, Sao Paulo Film Festival

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日日夜夜 | Night and Day

Nightandday

A story of an entrepreneurial miner racked by guilt over the death of his lover’s husband. Set in the fictional community of Tianquan, somewhere in bleak northern China, coal miner Li Guangsheng lives and works with the older Zhongmin, a father figure. Guangsheng, who is secretly having a hotsyhotsy affair with Zhongmin’s wife, is mortified when Zhongmin dies in a mine explosion and blames himself for not saving his friend. Suffering an attack of impotence, he sends Zhongmin’s widow away. After buying the mine under a new government policy designed to encourage private initiative, Guangsheng works like a Trojan to clear and re-open the site. He’s joined by Zhongmin’s son, A-fu, in his attempt to make a success of the mine.

Directed by Chao Wang | Starring : Lei Liu, Lan Wang, Ming Xiao, Guilin Sun, Zheng Wang | Presented at Nantes Film Festival, Adelaide Film Festival, Hong Kong Film Festival

十七岁的单车 | Beijing Bicycle

Beijing Bicycle2

Beijing: young men in packs, machismo, class divisions, violence, and indifference. Guei arrives from the country: toothbrushes, hotel foyers, and Qin, a rich neighbor in high heels, dazzle him. He gets a job as a messenger. The company issues him a bike, which he must pay for out of his wages. When it is stolen, Guei hunts for it. A student, Jian, has it; for him, it’s the key to teen society – with his pals and with Xiao, a girl he fancies. Guei finds the bike and stubbornly tries to reclaim it in the face of great odds. But for Jian to lose the bike would mean humiliation. The two young men, and the people around them, are swept up in the youths’ desperation.

Directed by Xiaoshuai Wang | Starring : Lin Cui, Bin Li, Xun Zhou, Yuanyuan Gao, Shuang Li | Presented at Berlin Film Festival, Singapore Film Festival, Toronto Film Festival, Helsinki Film Festival, Vancouver Film Festival, San Sebastian Film Festival