This simple, yet engaging film tells the story of 17-year-old Ruoma, a member of the Xjani tribe, who are a racial minority in the Yunnan province of southern China. Ruoma has always lived a quiet, rural life, but dreams of a glamorous, cosmopolitan lifestyle way beyond her financial reach. When a photographer named Ming offers Ruoma the chance to make money as a model, she jumps at the opportunity, even if it is just posing in tribal wear for the amusement of tourists. Ruoma quickly falls in love with Ming and the notion that he may be her ticket out. Without any acting experience, Li Min is nonetheless stunning and natural in her portrayal of Ruoma. Made independently from China’s studio system, this film takes a subtle, yet compelling look at Xjani culture. An official Selection of 2004’s Philadelphia Film Festival, When Ruoma Was Seventeen is a fresh coming-of-age story from director Zhang Jiarue that features an interesting subject, and nuanced performances.
Directed by Jiarui Zhang | Starring : Li Min, Zhigang Yang, Shu Linyuan | Presented at Pusan Film Festival, Berlin Film Festival, Montréal Film Festival, San Jose Film Festival, Philadelphia Film Festival, Flanders Film Festival