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

Advertisements

万有引力 | The Law of Attraction

The Law of Attraction

Four short exposé on love and attraction of the sexes in the big city: a business traveler is delayed due to the malfunction of the airport’s security device, but unexpectedly it sparks off a romance between him and the security officer; a couple’s marriage is in crisis when the repeated attempt to have a child fails; a traffic accident is in reality a trap set by a jealous husband for punishing his unfaithful wife; and a pair of young junkies trying to start anew.

Directed by Tianyu Zhao | Starring : Karen Mok, Jingchu Zhang, Tao Guo, Leon Dai, Zhang Wen | Presented at Montréal Film Festival

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

纺织姑娘 | Weaving Girl

Weaving Girl

Diagnosed with cancer and unable to afford treatment, a woman decides to leave her unhappy marriage search for her first love in Beijing.

Directed by Quan’an Wang | Starring : Nan Yu, Tao Guo, Zhengwu Cheng, Liv Fuyou, Yongquan Xia | Presented at Montréal Film Festival, Ghent Film Festival, Pusan 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

光荣的愤怒 | Trouble Makers

Trouble Makers

Trouble Makers tells the story of four simple men living in Black Well Village (in rural Yunnan province) who decide to finally run the criminal Xiong Brothers out of their homes. The Xiongs have managed to build a criminal “empire” in the small town even managing to elect themselves the mayor and official accountant of Black Well Village. Two other brothers enforce the Xiongs’ will with violence and intimidation. The brothers, known by the political-infused moniker, the Gang of Four, smuggle salt and generally terrorize the villagers of Black Well.

Directed by Baoping Cao | Starring : Gang Wu, Yanhui Wang, Xiaobo Li, Yi Zhu, Qingsan Kong | Presented at Montréal 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