萧红 | Falling Flowers

Falling Flowers

While bombs destroy 1941 Hong Kong, Xiao Hong lays ill in a nearly abandoned hospital recounting her short life to an admirer.  Falling Flowers is the story of China’s Xiao Hong, a writer who is torn apart by societal expectations of women, fickle lovers, and her own complex needs.  As a young woman faced with the prospect of an arranged marriage, Xiao Hong leaves her family and follows her dream of attending university.  Overwhelmed by her financial situation she finds some support from her fiance but it does not last long.  Out of school, unwed, pregnant and trapped in a hotel for bad debt, Xiao Hong begins to crumble until a dashing reporter, Xiao Jun, visits her.  Their passion for art and literary success helps them overcome their poverty but is it enough to overcome the perils of war and his womanizing ways? Directed by Huo Jiangi, Falling Flowers is a beautifully shot period piece that skillfully tells the tragic tale of one of China’s important modern authors.

Directed by Jianqi Huo | Starring : Jia Song, Jue Huang, Renjun Wang, Chao Wu, Zhang Bo | Presented at Shanghai Film Festival, Hawaii Film Festival

秋之白华 | The Seal of Love

The Seal of Love

China, the early 1920s. Following the 4 May Movement in 1919, when students and radicals demontrated against foreign oppression, Yang Zhihua moves from Zhejiang province to Shanghai and ends up studying sociology at Shanghai University, where she becomes friends with Feng Xiaoxuan, a student of English who’s come to the big city to escape a marriage. In class, Yang falls under the spell of radical teacher Qu Qiubai and perseveres with her studies despite the opposition of her husband Shen Jianlong, by whom she has a young daughter, An’er. Yang becomes Secretary of the Women’s Section of the KMT’s Shanghai Executive Branch, where she works with Xiang Jingyu, wife of Communist revolutionary Cai Hesen, at a time when the Communists were planning to unite with the KMT under Sun Yat-sen’s “Three Principles of the People” reform movement. Yang’s husband finally leaves her in Shanghai and she joins the fledgling Chinese Communist Party, working closely alongside Qu. Following the death of Qu’s wife, in summer 1924 Yang and Qu visit her husband and arrange for her divorce. Following demonstrations in Shanghai, Qu, now married to Yang, becomes a wanted man but manages to escape arrest. In 1927 he and Yang are selected for the CCP’s Central Committee, but the Party is torn by in-fighting. In 1928, they move to Moscow as CCP delegates, but in 1930 return to Shanghai, where Qu, ousted form the Central Committee, works as a translator with writer Lu Xun. But by 1933 Qu’s safety is becoming more and more perilous and he’s forced to leave Yang in Shanghai and flee the city.

Directed by Jianqi Huo | Starring : Shawn Dou, Jie Dong, Jiaming Guo, Chunde Yi, Kira Mi | Presented at Shanghai Film Festival

无人驾驶 | Driverless

Driverless

Jia chases love and wanders the streets to defy her father. Zhi Xiong lives a comfortable middle class life, but married life does not go well. Zhi Xiong has an affair with former girlfriend Xiao Yun. Wang Yao lost his daughter in a car accident and a women attempts to help him, but ends up getting hurt. Their interwoven stories all unravel through one accident at an intersection.

Directed by Yang Zhang | Starring : Ye Liu, Yuanyuan Gao, Jianbin Chen, Xiao Ran Li, Luodan Wang | Presented at Shanghai Film Festival, Pusan Film Festival

碧罗雪山 | Deep in the Clouds

Deep in the Clouds

The story takes place in a Lisu Village near the Nu River. Di A Lu, in love with Mu Pa’s sister Ji Ni, is banned from pursuing her by Lisu tradition. One day, Mu Pa is arrested after cutting down a plant that is protected under national laws. Mu Pa’s father tries to marry Ji Ni to A Da to settle Mu Pa’s case. On her wedding day, Ji Ni, dressed in a traditional Lisu wedding outfit, disappears into a foggy mountain. Three months later, Lisu people start moving out of the mountains where they have lived for generations side-by-side with their worshipped ancestors.

Directed by Jie Liu | Starring : Ji’Adi, Wangpuze, Nazhiye, Hei Pi, Chunhua Hu | Presented at Shanghai Film Festival

A面B面 | The Double Life

Double life

Hangzhou, China, the present day. Chen Congming, an associate professor at a medical college who is popular with his students, alarms his superiors with his theory that everyone has the potential to go crazy, and that the dividing line between sanity and insanity is paper-thin. The college principal has Chen committed to a mental asylum. There Chen gets to know an orderly, Liang Haichao, who was recently divorced by his childhood sweetheart Liu Yue, a money-obsessed model now suffering from chronic depression. Liu is now engaged to wealthy Cantonese businessman Xiao Chunlei, who’s made his fortune from health/sex tonics. But when Xiao’s six-year-old daughter by his ex-wife Shao Meili has to go into hospital for an emergency kidney operation which Xiao pays for, Liu becomes further depressed that he’s looking to reconcile with his ex-wife. She has a very public nervous breakdown. Meanwhile, Liang has decided that Liu needs “rescuing” from Xiao, and persuades her to get Xiao committed to the mental asylum by feeding him her anti-depressant pills. In the asylum Chen meets Xiao, whom he realises has been framed, and the pair decide to break out together.

Directed by Ying Ning | Starring : Luoyong Wang, Jingchu Zhang, Daniel Chan Hiu Tong, Wenkang Yuan, Wei Kong | Presented at Shanghai Film Festival

麦田 | Wheat

Wheat

In the Kingdom of Zhao, all the men have left for war and Lady Li (Fan Bingbing), wife of the absent lord, says victory will soon bring their men back home. When two enemy deserters invade the kingdom they pretend to be Zhao soldiers and improvise a tale for Lady Li describing Zhao’s victory. Word of the supposed victory spreads rapidly throughout the town, causing misplaced optimism among the women until the truth is revealed and despair and horror emerge.

Directed by Ping He | Starring : Bingbing Fan, Zhiwen Wang, Jue Huang, Jiayi Du, Xueqi Wang | Presented at Shanghai Film Festival, Toronto Film Festival, Ghent Film Festival, Tokyo Film Festival

白银帝国 | Empire of Silver

Empire of Silver

With this lush epic Palo Alto–based filmmaker Christina Yao tells a story both timely and timeless: a tale of love, succession and compromised ideals that chronicles the lives of a powerful family of Shanxi bankers during the waning years of the Qing Dynasty. Downright Shakespearean in theme, the film details a little-known piece of Chinese history while offering parallels to the current financial crisis with its shadowy world of unscrupulous market fixing and backroom deals. In the northeastern Chinese province of 19th-century Shanxi, a group of bankers amassed extensive wealth and power that allowed them considerable independence from the state. The fictional Kang family is one such clan, whose fortunes take a sudden turn for the worse when several of the family’s heirs meet tragic fates and civil unrest threatens the nation’s stability. Third Master, a hedonist and the Kang patriarch’s least favorite son, is now called upon to carry on their lineage. Torn between familial obligation and his own desire for love and happiness, he sets out to reform his father’s unethical business practices while shepherding the family through the country’s growing unrest. Full of swooping crane shots, monumental sets and massive landscapes, Yao’s debut recalls the opulent historical sagas of Chinese Fifth Generation filmmakers like Zhang Yimou as it combines a passionate tale of unrequited love and a fascinating glimpse of a rarely related episode in Chinese history.

Directed by Christina Yao | Starring : Aaron Kwok, Tielin Zhang, Lei Hao, Zhicheng Ding, Jennifer Tilly | Presented at Berlin Film Festival, Shanghai Film Festival, Hawaii Film Festival, San Francisco Film Festival, Mexico Film Festival