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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吴清源 | The Go Master

The Go Master

The latest film from celebrated Fifth Generation director Tian Zhuangzhuang, The Go Master shines a light on the life and times of Wu Qingyuan. Better know by his Japanese name Go Seigen, Wu is considered the greatest Go player of the 20th century, his talents bringing him from his native China to a professional career in Japan when he was only a teenager. Based on Wu’s autobiography, this elegantly shot and remarkably restrained biopic follows the life of a singular figure, fascinating not only for his genius and achievements in the game of Go, but also for his unique experiences as a Chinese man in Japan during an immensely turbulent period in history. With the breakout of the Sino-Japanese War in the 1930s, Wu Qingyuan and his family are thrown into an uncomfortable and dangerous position as Chinese nationals residing in Japan. While Wu’s family returns to China, he chooses to stay behind in his adopted country to continue to pursue the game of Go. In the quiet recluse of his school, there are no politics, only the singular dedication to his art and the love for his wife Kazuko. However, the chaos of the times eventually forces him out of his enclave, throwing his life and mind into conflict. Wu joins a cult in a sober pursuit of faith and his own ongoing battle to come to terms with himself.

Directed by Zhuangzhuang Tian | Starring : Chen Chang, Sylvia Chang, Xuejian Li, Ayumi Ito, Yi Huang | Presented at New York Film Festival, Rome Film Festival, Hong Kong Film Festival, Ankara Film Festival, Shanghai Film Festival, Bangkok Film Festival, Cinemanila Film Festival

幸福时光 | Happy Times

Happy Times

Happy Times is a Chinese comedy about human nature when it comes to love and the pursuit of happiness. When a matchmaker sends middle-aged Zhao the perfect wife, he tries to impress her by promising a far more extravagant wedding than he can afford. Then, desperate to make money, Zhao gets mired in a hilarious, tangled mess before he decides to come clean to his fiancée.

Directed by Yimou Zhang | Starring : Benshan Zhao, Jie Dong, Lifan Dong, Biao Fu, Xuejian Li | Presented at Pusan Film Festival, Berlin Film Festival, Tribeca Film Festival, Athens Film Festival, Valladolid Film Festival

荆轲刺秦王 | The Emperor and the Assassin

The Emperor and the Assassin

A lavishly produced historical drama from China, The Emperor and the Assassin tells the complex, multi-facetted story of the man who became the first Emperor of a unified China, another man who has sworn to kill him, and a woman who is loved by both men. Late in the Third Century B.C., when China was comprised of seven rival kingdoms, Ying Zheng was the leader of Qin. Ying Zheng had a dream in which he joined together the seven kingdoms into a single utopian state, and taking this as a mandate from God, he invaded the nearby state of Han as the first step toward this goal. However, not everyone in the neighboring states was happy with Ying Zheng’s crusade, which seemed to indicate a lengthy war with many casualties. Lady Zhao, Ying’s lover, devised a scheme to help Ying Zheng take over the nearby and uncooperative state of Yan; she fabricated a fake assassination plot against him, and framed the leader of Yan, once Ying Zheng’s childhood friend, as the man behind the murderous plot. However, Lady Zhao did not choose the would-be assassin wisely; while Jing Ke loved her and was willing to do her bidding, Jing Ke’s previous assassination assignment caused the unintended death of an innocent blind girl, which left him full of regret and a bit unstable. When Jing Ke learned a closely guarded secret about Ying Zheng’s past, he became blindly determined to kill the would-be emperor, whatever the cost.

Directed by Kaige Chen | Starring : Li Gong, Fengyi Zhang, Xuejian Li, Yongfei Gu, Zhiwen Wang | Presented at Cannes Film Festival, Toronto Film Festival, AFI Film Festival, Reykjavik Film Festival, Thessaloniki Film Festival

有话好好说 | Keep Cool

Keep Cool

Utilizing a hand-held camera to create a frantic, off-balance effect that is radically different from the techniques with which he made his films best known to Western audiences Raise the Red Lantern and Ju Dou, Chinese filmmaker Zhang Yimou has made a fast-paced modern comedy that serves as an allegory for the state of China in the late 1990s. The story’s protagonist is Xiao Shuai, a bookseller who falls in love with the seductive, free-spirited An Hong. To learn her address, Xiao follows her, but An spurns his advances. He refuses to give up; eventually she caves in and invites him to her home for some quick love. Unfortunately they start, but are interrupted at a crucial moment. Later Xiao is accosted by the burly henchmen of An’s new lover, a sleazy nightclub owner. They are beating him like an old rug when Lao Zhang, an old researcher, intervenes. During the scuffle, his prized laptop computer is smashed and later, he demands that Xiao replace it. But Xiao cares nothing for the destroyed laptop; he only wants revenge upon his attackers. Together he and Lao arrange to meet the villains in their club for a showdown.

Directed by Yimou Zhang | Starring : Wen Jiang, You Ge, Ying Qu, Baotian Li, Benshan Zhao | Presented at Cannes Film Festival, Venice Film Festival, Toronto Film Festival, Sao Paulo Film Festival

摇啊摇,摇到外婆桥 | Shanghai Triad

Shanghai Triad

Zhang Yimou’s Shanghai Triad won the Technical Grand Prize at Cannes Film Festival in 1995, and was also nominated for the prestigious Golden Palm. Having collaborated with Zhang Yimou for a few artistically acclaimed titles including Raise the Red Lantern, Gong Li had by then made a name for herself as an actress. After Shanghai Triad, she stopped working with Zhang for more than a decade until Curse of the Golden Flower reunited them in 2006. Wonderfully colored and visually sumptuous, Shanghai Triad also received a nomination for Best Cinematography at the Oscars. Shanghai Triad, a film noir by genre, shows triad life through the eyes of a teenager, a perspective not often seen in this genre. Teenage boy Shuisheng moves from the countryside to Shanghai to stay with his uncle, who is under triad leader Tang. Tang sends Shuisheng to serve his mistress Xiao Jinbao (Gong Li). She has an affair with Song, another triad leader who plans to seize power from Tang. Shuisheng, innocent and naive, involuntarily gets involved in a power struggle which may explode at any time.

Directed by Yimou Zhang | Starring : Li Gong, Baotian Li, Wang Xiaoxiao, Xuejian Li, Chun Sun | Presented at Cannes Film Festival, Telluride Film Festival, New York Film Festival, London Film Festival

蓝风筝 | The Blue Kite

The Blue Kite

Told from the perspective of a young boy, Tietou, this film traces the fate of a Beijing family and their neighbors as they experience the political and social upheavals in the 1950s and 1960s China.

Directed by Zhuangzhuang Tian | Starring : Liping Lü, Cunxin Pu, Xuejian Li, Xiaoying Song, Ping Zong | Presented at Toronto Film Festival, Chicago Film Festival, New York Film Festival, Tokyo Film Festival, Hawaii Film Festival