巴尔扎克与小裁缝 | Balzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress

Balzac

In 1971 China, in the lingering grip of the cultural revolution, two university students, Luo and Ma, are sent to a mountain mining village as part of their reeducation duty to purge them of their classical western oriented education. Amid the backbreaking work and stifling ignorance of the community, the two boys find that music, and the presence of the beautiful local young women are the only pleasant things in their miserable life. However, none compare to the young seamstress granddaughter of the local tailor. Stealing a departing student’s secret cache of forbidden books of classic western literature such as the works of Honore de Balzac, they set about to woo her and teach her things she had never imagined. In doing so, they start a journey that would profoundly change her perspective on her world and teach the boys about the power of literature and their own ability to change their world in truly revolutionary ways.

Directed by Sijie Dai | Starring : Xun Zhou, Ye Liu, Kun Chen, Zhijun Cong, Hongwei Wang | Presented at Cannes Film Festival, Montréal Film Festival, Marrakech Film Festival, Chicago Film Festival, Ghent Film Festival, AFI Film Festival, Palm Springs Film Festival, Göteborg Film Festival, Istanbul Film Festival, Moscow Film Festival, Auckland Film Festival, Copenhagen Film Festival, Milwaukee Film Festival

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鬼子来了 | Devils on the Doorstep

Devils on the Doorstep

Winner of the Grand Jury Prize at the Cannes Film Festival, and banned in its native country, Jiang Wen’s ravishingly photographed anti-war epic is set in 1945 in a Japanese-occupied rural Chinese village. Wen stars as Ma Dasan, a peasant, who, one night at gunpoint, is compelled to shelter two prisoners. One is a captured Japanese soldier who wants to be killed, the other his Chinese interpreter, who wants to stay alive. As the days turn into months, Dasan and his fellow villagers keep their unwanted guests hidden from the Japanese forces, while deciding whether or not to execute their captives. The film’s rich, bold cinematography is matched only by its approach to the subject matter, which, in turn, attracted the unwanted attention of the Chinese censors who ultimately banned it from Chinese screens.

Directed by Wen Jiang | Starring : Wen Jiang, Teruyuki Kagawa, Ding Yuan, Yihong Jiang, Zhijun Cong | Presented at Cannes Film Festival, Singapore Film Festival, Hawaii Film Festival, Wisconsin Film Festival, Chicago Film Festival, Hong Kong 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

菊豆 | Ju Dou

Ju Dou

A woman married to the brutal and infertile owner of a dye mill in rural China conceives a boy with her husband’s nephew but is forced to raise her son as her husband’s heir without revealing his parentage in this circular tragedy. Filmed in glowing technicolour, this tale of romantic and familial love in the face of unbreakable tradition is more universal than its setting.

Directed by Yimou Zhang | Starring : Li Gong, Baotian Li, Wei Li, Zhang Yi, Xingli Niu | Presented at Cannes Film Festival, Toronto Film Festival, New York Film Festival, London Film Festival, Chicago Film Festival, Valladolid Film Festival, Melbourne Film Festival, Sundance Film Festival, Telluride Film Festival