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

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天浴 | Xiu Xiu: The Sent-Down Girl

Xiu Xiu

Liyan and Yuwen live in post-war torpor, childless but with Liyan’s school-aged sister. He coughs, imagining he has tuberculosis; Yuwen embroiders; they sleep in separate rooms. A surprise visit from Liyan’s boyhood friend Zhang, a big city physician, wakes up the household. To Zhang’s amazement, he discovers his friend’s wife is his own youthful sweetheart. Possibilities abound: an affair, an arranged marriage of Zhang and Little Sister, now 16, or simply ending ennui and embracing vitality.

Directed by Joan Chen | Starring : Xiaolu Li, Lopsang, Zheng Qian, Jie Gao, Yue Lü | Presented at Berlin Film Festival, Chicago Film Festival, Paris 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