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

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钢的琴 | The Piano in a Factory

The Piano in a Factory

An offbeat ballad of friendship and devotion, The Piano in a Factory captures the tempo of changing times with quiet wisdom and a tinge of nostalgia. Steelworker Chen has a passion for music and plays the accordion in a local band with a close group of friends. When his estranged wife returns one day after years of absence, she demands a divorce and sole custody of their daughter. Chen is at a loss. He doesn’t mind divorcing a woman who has become a stranger, but he can’t bear to part with his daughter. Chen has worked hard to give her a respectable life and has taught her his love of music. When asked if she’d rather stay with her father or go with her mother, the girl gives a practical, devastating answer: she’ll go with whomever can provide her with a piano. Chen cannot afford such a luxury item, but the piano becomes his last hope to save what little is left of his family. With the help of his loyal friends and the support of his lover – the singer in his band – Chen concocts several plans to fulfill his daughter’s wish, from sneaking her into the local music school at night to drawing a fake piano. He even tries to steal the instrument from the school – anything to keep her near him. Nothing works for long, until Chen looks around his fading steel factory town and hits on the perfect solution. The Piano in a Factory is an endearing portrait of a moment when the certainty of state-run industry begins to falter. Simple in its measured and assured direction, The Piano in a Factory establishes Zhang Meng as one of the most vibrant voices in Chinese cinema today.

Directed by Zhang Meng | Starring : Qianyuan Wang, Shin-yeong Jang, Hailu Qin, Yongzhen Guo, Er-yang Luo | Presented at Toronto Film Festival, Tokyo Film Festival, Cinemanila Film Festival, Dubai Film Festival, Rotterdam Film Festival, Glasgow Film Festival, Miami Film Festival, San Francisco Film Festival, Wisconsin Film Festival, Melbourne Film Festival, Hamburg Film Festival, Thessaloniki Film Festival

寒假 | Winter Vacation

Winter Vacation

An ordinary village in Northern China, the last day of the winter vacation. Four idle, aimless adolescents gather at Zhou Zhixin’s home, a friend who lives with his father, brother and nephew. Like most contemporary teenagers, these youths want to enjoy their last day of holiday and simply hang out in this place where nothing ever seems likely to happen. Their conversations are desultory and they sometimes seem to argue for argument’s sake. One of them, Laowu, talks frankly with his girlfriend about how teenage love might affect their studies, while Laobao questions school’s value and relevance to real life.

Directed by Hongqi Li | Starring : Jinfeng Bai, Lei Bao, Hui Wang, Ying Xie, Naqi Zhang | Presented at Locarno Film Festival, Vancouver Film Festival, London Film Festival, Mar del Plata Film Festival, Thessaloniki Film Festival, Rotterdam Film Festival, Hong Kong Film Festival, Wisconsin Film Festival, Melbourne Film Festival, San Sebastian Film Festival

第四张画 | The Fourth Portrait

Fourth Portrait

Ten year-old Xiang faces a lonely future after his father dies. Just when he thinks he’s going to spend his life in the orphanage, his estranged mother shows up. And his life changes forever… A loveless mother, a hateful stepfather, a chilly home. Where’s Xiang heading to? He finds comfort in drawing and his work reveals his longing for care and affection. Life is full of hope again when he meets the old school janitor who doesn’t show his kindness easily and a portly man who has crazy ideas and is haunted with nightmares of his brother. A scary truth is about to be unmasked. Will Xiang be able to depict his own image in the fourth portrait?

Directed by Mong-Hong Chung | Starring : Bi Xiao-Hai, Shih-chieh Chin, Lei Hao, Leon Dai, Terri Kwan | Presented at Locarno Film Festival, Toronto Film Festival, Tokyo Film Festival, Mar del Plata Film Festival, Nantes Film Festival, Cinemanila Film Festival, Melbourne Film Festival, Gindou Film Festival, Wisconsin 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

如梦 | Like a Dream

Like a Dream

A Chinese man living in New York suffers recurring dreams in which he meets an elusive, sorrowful woman. While on business in Shanghai he sees her in a photograph and goes in search of her – but instead finds her doppelgänger, a loud, exuberant factory worker. As they grow close, Max struggles to accept the compromised reality of his dream woman. In this cross-continental romance, Hong Kong–Australian director Clara Law returns to the themes of cultural displacement and identity that often permeate her films. Features an original score by Australian pianist and composer Paul Grabowsky.

Directed by Clara Law | Starring : Daniel Wu, Quan Yuan, A. Kyo Moon | Presented at Hong Kong Film Festival, Melbourne Film Festival

中国姑娘 | She, a Chinese

She A Chinese

Mei, a young Chinese girl bored with life in her little village, decides to quit for the nearest town, Chongqing. But life there isn’t much easier either; sacked from a clothing factory shortly after starting work, she makes do with a job in a hairdressing salon. There she meets and falls for Spikey, a local mafia’s contract killer. For this brute of a man – who has no qualms about asking her to beat him in the street with a nunchaku – she seems simply another notch on the bedpost. One evening, he comes home covered in blood and dies at her feet. Mei discovers several bundles of banknotes under his mattress, and sets off for London where she has an opportunity to marry Mister Hunt, a man of seventy. In her new husband’s silent home, a new life begins. Will she be satisfied with this monotonous routine? Paced to an original soundtrack by John Parish – working with PJ Harvey and the band Eels – and chaptered in telling titles such as Sometimes you wonder who you really are and Mei feels love under the Big Ben calendar, Xiaolu Guo has made a film in which the challenges Mei must confront do not deter her quest for a more promising future. The filmmaker uses elements of nature – stifling summer heat, a duck bleeding to death, a dog wolfed down by a fox –to express her protagonist’s feelings. Through this journey and the people Mei meets, She, a Chinese conjures the mix of cultures in the early 21st century and how people, lifestyles, consumer goods, and music all cross borders. Although these cross-cultural currents bring about a degree of chaos in Mei’s life, she finds the will to escape isolation, and to follow her desires, come what may.

Directed by Xiaolu Guo | Starring : Lu Huang, Wei Yi Bo, Geoffrey Hutchings, Chris Ryman, Hsinyi Liu | Presented at Locarno Film Festival, Toronto Film Festival, Hamburg Film Festival, Ghent Film Festival, Pusan Film Festival, Sao Paulo Film Festival, London Film Festival, Vienna Film Festival, Mar del Plata Film Festival, Göteborg Film Festival, Istanbul Film Festival, Hong Kong Film Festival, Melbourne Film Festival, Rio de Janeiro Film Festival