孔雀 | Peacock

Peacock

Whereas most Chinese art house movies do actual medical damage to viewers with their chic nihilism and long, boring shots of people riding around in trucks, Peacock is a balm for your soul. The Cultural Revolution is China ‘s national trauma, a harrowing decade of turmoil and destruction where everyone just tried to hold on and survive, and when it ended in 1976 millions emerged blinking into the sunlight, astounded that they were still standing. Peacock follows an average family in the average town of Henyang through the eight years after the end of the Cultural Revolution as they pick up their lives as if nothing happened. It’s a great leap forward for the three adult children of the Gao clan. Anchored by a series of family meals, the kids are trying to make it in the world – Weihong, the daughter has to learn that her dream man isn’t going to solve all her problems; eldest brother Weiguo is a simple-minded fat guy who’s an unmarriageable weight around his parents’ necks; and the middle son, Weiqiang, is the typical middle child, narrating the movie and taking every injustice in life as a personal affront. A two-hour plus movie about a family in post-Revolutionary China sounds deadly, but in the hands of Gu Changwei it becomes essential viewing for the dejected, downtrodden and just plain weary. This is a film that traffics in the belief that it doesn’t matter how bad today gets because as long as we’re alive there’s always the hope for a better tomorrow.

Directed by Changwei Gu | Starring : Jingchu Zhang, Yulai Lu, Li Feng, Meiying Huang, Yiwei Zhao | Presented at Berlin Film Festival. Helsinki Film Festival, Brothers Manaki Film Festival, Sao Paulo Film Festival

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二弟 | Drifters

Drifters

Would-be immigrant Er Di is back in China, expelled from the United States for working illegally. While in the U.S. he fathered a child, and when his American-born son comes to China for a visit, Er Di is barred from seeing him. At the same time, Er Di becomes involved with a beautiful member of a touring Shanghai opera company. Caught between his past and his future, his son’s culture and his own, Er Di seeks bonds with both.

Directed by Xiaoshuai Wang | Starring : Yihong Duan, Yan Shu, Yiwei Zhao, Yang Tang, Juyong Liu | Presented at Cannes Film Festival, Toronto Film Festival, Hawaii Film Festival, Thessaloniki Film Festival, Rotterdam Film Festival, Karlovy Vary Film Festival

十七岁的单车 | Beijing Bicycle

Beijing Bicycle2

Beijing: young men in packs, machismo, class divisions, violence, and indifference. Guei arrives from the country: toothbrushes, hotel foyers, and Qin, a rich neighbor in high heels, dazzle him. He gets a job as a messenger. The company issues him a bike, which he must pay for out of his wages. When it is stolen, Guei hunts for it. A student, Jian, has it; for him, it’s the key to teen society – with his pals and with Xiao, a girl he fancies. Guei finds the bike and stubbornly tries to reclaim it in the face of great odds. But for Jian to lose the bike would mean humiliation. The two young men, and the people around them, are swept up in the youths’ desperation.

Directed by Xiaoshuai Wang | Starring : Lin Cui, Bin Li, Xun Zhou, Yuanyuan Gao, Shuang Li | Presented at Berlin Film Festival, Singapore Film Festival, Toronto Film Festival, Helsinki Film Festival, Vancouver Film Festival, San Sebastian Film Festival