China

Xu Xin – Karamay (2010)

The film opens on the morning of December 8th 2007, in Karamay’s Xiaoxihu cemetery. Daybreak casts a cold grey light over faraway mountains and the Gobi sands. As the camera moves from grave to grave, it zeroes in on the photographs encased in glass on every tombstone. All are of children. Exactly 13 years ago, Karamay’s Friendship Hall was the site of a horrible tragedy: nearly 800 grade and middle-school students and their teachers, hand-picked to entertain a delegation of education officials, were in the midst of a performance when a fire broke out in the hall. Read More »

Gu Xue – The Choice (2019)

Quote:
It’s a video of a Chinese family discussing and arguing about what to do with a relative with some kind of severe illness or injury who is in ICU but will soon either die or be in a vegetative state. It’s one long (uninterrupted?) shot with the family bickering but mostly saying the same few things over and over. It\’s probably somewhere between ethnography and psychology, with the comparatively calm or inscrutability of the people compared to how this would play out in a western setting being the most striking aspect to me. Read More »

Various – Lian hua jiao xiang qu AKA Symphony of Lianhua (1937)

“The Lianhua Film Company became the leading progressive studio of the 1930s. Symphony of Lianhua 1937 is a rarely seen showcase of short films by eight directors, many of whom later worked in Hong Kong. Cai Chusheng’s Five Little Brothers is an early cinematic exploration of children’s lives and Zhu Shilin’s contribution is one of the first Chinese horror films. Other films range from comedy to social realism. Read More »

Jun Li – Nong nu AKA Serfs (1963)

From the BFI website:
Drama about the exploitation of a Tibetan serf and his liberation by the People’s Liberation Army. Orphaned Jampa is brought up by his grandmother until she dies when he is twelve. The serf-owner Namgyal makes him a house serf and ill-treats him. Lamka, the sister of his blacksmith friend Gezong, tells him the P.L.A. has reached Tibet. Jampa, Gezong and the P.L.A defeat the plots of Namgyal and Thugpen, the hypocritical `living buddha’ and the serfs are emancipated. Read More »

Chi Zhang – Dixia de tiankong aka The Shaft (2008)

In a poor mining town in western China, stories of a father and his two children intertwine. The misfortunes of son and daughter alike unravel to illuminate the complicated relationships masked by their community’s hard exterior. Read More »

Yigong Wu & Yonggang Wu – Ba Shan Ye Yu aka Evening Rain (1980)

This film had a deep influence upon China in the 1980s, as it was beginning to come to terms with the Cultural Revolution.

Quote:
Evening Rain, a feature film co-directed by Wu Yonggang and Wu Yigong, is about the years of the Cultural Revolution. Qiu Shi, a well-known poet, is wronged during that political movement. He is aboard a passenger ship bound for Chongqing from Wuhan under the guard of a young man and a young woman. In the third-class cabin, there is a village girl who has sold herself to repay her family debt, a woman teacher who speaks out from a sense of justice, an old actor who has had a full taste of suffering, an old woman who is on her way to commemorate her son killed in the violent factional struggle, and a righteous young worker. Read More »

Yang Zhang – Pi sheng shang de hun AKA Soul on a String (2016)

A slow-simmering, Western-style action drama of blood feud, misfired machismo, and spiritual quest spread across Tibet’s rolling steppes and scorching deserts, “Soul on a String” follows the travails of a hunter led by fate to deliver a sacred stone to a mythic mountain despite motley foes at his heels. Chinese director Zhang Yang (“Shower,” “Sunflower”) eschews the thrill of propulsive duels for a discursive allegorical approach, serving up picturesque visuals, highland-dry humor, and karmic plot twists. While the nearly two-and-a-half-hour running time is sure to hamper theatrical release prospects, Zhang’s quirky blend of genre and art-house elements should ensure considerable fest play. Read More »