A First Farewell

第一次的离别 Dì yī cì de líbié (A first farewell),

by Wang Lina, 2018, running time 86'.

 

Screenplay: Wang Lina. Cinematography: Li Yong. Editing: Matthieu Laclau. Music: Wenzi. Producer: Qin Xiaoyu, Cai Qingzeng. Starring: Isa Yasan, Kalbinur Rahmati, Musa Yasan, Ugulem Sugur, Yasan Kamisu.

 

Director Wang Lina's touching debut tells the story of Isa, a child from Xinjiang, forced to be separated from his loved ones. A coming-of-age novel through the initiation to farewell, awarded at the Tokyo and Berlin film festivals.

Wang Lina's first film features a young boy, Isa Yasan, from Xayar County in the Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region. Isa is very fond of his mother, who became deaf and dumb after contracting meningitis, and is torn between caring for her, going to school and working in the fields. He is friends with a lively little girl named Kalbinur; they play together and look after a little lamb. Kalbinur's school results in her Uyghur language are good, but her Mandarin grades are bad. Since the national language needs to be studied, his mother wishes to move to the city where her daughter can attend a good school in chinese. However, her father does not agree and the couple argues a lot about the decision. During that same winter, Isa's father decides to send his wife to a nursing home and to leave the village with the rest of the family. Isa is forced to face one separation after another.

Wang Lina

Born in the Xingjiang Autonomous Region in 1987, Wang Lina graduated from the University of Communication of China in Beijing. Her debut feature A First Farewell won the Asian Future Award at the 2018 Tokyo Film Festival and the Crystal Bear from the Generation Kplus competition at the 2019 Berlinale.

 

A First Farewell ( Dì yī cì de líbié, 2018).

 
 
 

Red Flowers and Green Leaves

红花绿叶 Hónghuā lǜyè (Red Flowers and Green Leaves),

by Liu Miaomiao and Hu Weijie, 2019, running time 95'.

 

Screenplay: Liu Miaomiao, Shi Shuqin. Cinematography: Hu Weijie. Editing: Wu Zhendian. Music: Xu Mingjian. Producer: Gao Erdi. Starring: Luo Kewang, Ma Siqi.

 

The exciting and realistic chronicle of an 'arranged' marriage in northwest China. Will Gubo and Asheeyen understand and love each other?

The film was shot in northwest China, in a village of the Hui people, a Muslim minority. It tells the story of a young married couple's attempt to build a happy future together. Twenty-two-year-old Li Guoqing, known as Gubo, who suffers from recurrent epileptic seizures, has succeeded against all odds in marrying the lovely Asheeyen. But their marriage has been arranged by their respective families through a matchmaker who has kept the young man's illness a secret and concealed the tragic love previously experienced by the girl. Asheeyen, deeply scarred by the sudden death of her first fiancé, is frightened by the prospect of marital experience, but gradually gains confidence thanks to Gubo's patience and disarming kindness. Having learned of their respective pasts kept secret by their families, the two young people, living together, can begin to know and understand each other and create an emotional relationship.

 

Liu Miaomiao

Born in 1962 in Guyuan, in the Ningxia autonomous region, and a member of the Hui minority, Liu Miaomiao was one of the first Chinese directors to gain international visibility thanks to her participation in competition at the 1993 Venice Film Festival with “Chatterbox”. She entered the Beijing Film Academy at the age of 16 and was part of the so-called Fifth Generation of Chinese cinema, along with directors such as Zhang Yimou and Chen Kaige. She co-directed “Red Flowers and Green Leaves” with cinematographer Hu Weijie.

 

Filmography

Stories of the Voyage (Yuǎnyáng yì shì, 1986), Women Soldiers in the Long March (Mǎtí shēng suì, 1987), The Boxer (Quánjí shǒu, 1988), Chatterbox (Zá zuǐzi, 1993), Family Scandal (Jiāchǒu, 1994, co-directed with Cui Xiaoqin), Family Problems (Jiāshì, 1996), The Mountain Has No Words (Dàshān wú yán, 2005), Uptown Girl and Donetown Girl (Xiǎotián jìn chéng, 2008), Red Flowers and Green Leaves (Hónghuā lǜyè, 2019, co-directed with Hu Weijie).

 

Red Flowers and Green Leaves (Hónghuā lǜyè, 2019).

 

The Soul of Himalaya

喜马拉雅之灵 Xǐmǎlāyǎ zhī líng (The spirit of the Himalayas)

by Zeng Yunhui, 2017, running time 109'.

 

Screenplay: Wang Fei, Zeng Yunhui. Cinematography: Zeng Yunhui. Music: Ricky Ho. Producer: Lin Yong, Shi Yuzhen, Yang Yunfei, Chen Ying. Starring: Phurbu Tsering, Lhak Chong, Shaijikanbin Arbo.

 

Epic drama set in the background of the Tibetan plateau. To save his tribe from extinction, the warrior Lendon ventures in search of the Source of Life.

This epic drama is set in the 8th century and features the Bogar tribe, ethnic Lhoba Tani, living in the forests of the Tibetan plateau. Various calamities have brought the tribe to the brink of extinction and the main character, the warrior Lendon, tries to prevent their forthcoming end by finding the Fountain of Life. The making of the film required great passion and tenacity over the three years of production, made difficult by filming in remote locations and at very high altitudes. All the roles, except for the main characters, are played by authentic Lhobas who in real life are shepherds, farmers or hunters. First-time director Zeng Yunhui emphasised that the narrative combines fictional elements and authentic experiences that the small local community shared with him. The film, in addition to its beautiful images, offers a rare glimpse on the ancestral features of Tibetan culture that is disappearing in the face of the encroaching contemporary world.

Zeng Yunhui

Zeng Yunhui made his feature film debut with The Soul of Himalaya, which was shot in Tibetan remote and arduous locations with members of the Lhoba Tani ethnic group. Zeng also handled the cinematography for his debut, which had its world premiere at the 2017 Shanghai Film Festival.

 

The Soul of Himalaya (Xǐmǎlāyǎ zhī líng, 2017).

Ala Changso

阿拉姜色 Ālā jiāng sè (Drink this good wine),

by Sonthar Gyal, 2018, running time 115'.

 

Screenplay: Tashi Dawa, Sonthar Gyal. Cinematography: Wang Weihua. Editing: Sangdak Jyab, Tsering Wangshug. Music: Yang Yong. Producer: Liang Zonghao, Sonthar Gyal, Du Qingchun, Liao Xi. Starring: Yungdrung Gyal, Nyima Sungsung, Sechok Gyal, Jinpa, Guru Tsedan, Zhang Wenqing.

 

A young Tibetan woman finds herself seriously ill and decides to undertake a pilgrimage to Lhasa. An initiatory and spiritual journey steeped in humanity.

"Ala Changso" is a traditional Tibetan drinking song, inviting people to share good wine, which is part of a key moment in the film. The protagonist, Drolma, undertakes the long and arduous Buddhist pilgrimage to Lhasa, despite her serious illness. After the escape of the two bearers who were accompanying her, the husband Dorje joins her to provide support on the way, together with Drolma's first-born son Norbu, a difficult child who has been brought up by his maternal grandparents. Unfortunately, the aggravation of her illness does not allow the woman to reach her destination. After her death, and after the funeral rites, Dorje and Norbu continue their journey together towards Lhasa, and the route becomes an initiatory path that will bring the two closer together. The director focuses on the protagonists rather than on the obvious magnificence of the landscapes, recounting with feeling and delicacy a story linked to family, spirituality and death.

 

Sonthar Gyal

After studying Cinematography at the Beijing Film Academy, Tibetan Sonthar Gyal took his first steps in cinema working on Pema Tseden's The Silent Holy Stones (2005), The Search (2009) and Old Dog (2011). He made his directorial debut with The Sun Beaten Path (2011) and took the follow-ups River (2015), Ala Changso (2018) and Lhamo and Skalbe (2019) to major international festivals such as Berlin, Shanghai and San Sebastián.

 

Filmography

The Sun Beaten Path (Dbus lam gyi nyi ma, 2011), River (Gtsang po, 2015), Ala Changso (2018), Lhamo and Skalbe (Lha mo dang Skal bhe, 2019).

 

Ala Changso (Ālā jiāng sè, 2018).

 

Balloon

气球 Qìqiú (The Balloon), by Pema Tseden, 2019, running time 102'

 

Screenplay: Pema Tseden. Cinematography: Lu Songye. Editing: Liao Ching-Sung, Jin Di. Music: Peyman Yazdanian Producer: Huang Xufeng, Jacky Pang. Starring: Sonam Wangmo, Jinpa, Yangshik Tso.

 

Through the vicissitudes of a contemporary Tibetan family, director Pema Tseden stages the conflict between modernity and tradition with splendid images and fine lyricism.

The milky sequence opening the film, seen through a "balloon", immediately introduces the element mentioned in the title, at the origin of a series of events for the protagonist family. Darje and his wife Drolkar, their three sons and a grandfather live on the high plateau of Tibet, raising sheep in the grasslands of the Qinghai province. With much effort, the family manages to keep their eldest son Jamyang in school. Despite some concessions to modernity, they respect the traditions and principles of the Buddhist faith in which they were raised. To prevent unwanted pregnancies, the couple uses contraceptives, provided by the public health service to carry out family planning. Their lively children accidentally find condoms in the house and go to play outside using them as balloons, a hilarious episode which also upsets the harmony of the small community. The conflict between modernity and tradition will force them to take difficult decisions.

 

Pema Tseden

Director and writer, Pema Tseden (in Mandarin, Wanma Caidan) was born in 1969 in the Guide County, east of Qinghai Province and was the first Tibetan student at the Beijing Film Academy. His debut The Silent Holy Stones was selected for the New Currents competition at the 2005 Busan Film Festival. With The Search he participated in Competition at the 2009 Locarno Film Festival. His three most recent films, Tharlo (2015), Jinpa (2018) and Balloon (2019) participated in the Orizzonti section of the Venice Film Festival.

 

Filmography

The Silent Holy Stones (Lhang 'jags kyi ma ni rdo 'bum, 2005), The Search ('Tshol, 2009), Old Dog (Khyi rgan, 2011), The Sacred Arrow (Gyang mda', 2014), Tharlo (2015), Jinpa (Lag dmar, 2018), Balloon (Dbugs lgang, 2019).

 

Balloon (Qìqiú, 2019).

 

Suburban Birds

郊区的鸟 Jiāoqū de niǎo (Birds in the suburbs), by Qiu Sheng,

2018, running time 118'.

Screenplay: Qiu Sheng. Cinematography: Xu Ranjun. Editing: Liao Ching-Sung, Jin Di. Music: Xiaohe. Producer: Patrick Mao Huang, Chen Jingsu, Zhang Zhaowei. Starring: Mason Lee, Huang Lu, Gong Zihan, Chen Yihao, Chen Zhihao, Deng Jing.

 

In a mosaic between past and present,  between the documentation of spaces and the memories that inhabit them, debutant Qiu Sheng’s persuasive talent is revealed.

 

Parallel stories, set in Hangzhou, in southern China, develop on different time frames. In the present day, following ground subsidence in a suburban neighborhood, young engineer Xiahao and his team of technicians, are carrying out inspections in an area where a new underground line is to be built. Wandering through the deserted scenery that the population has been forced to evacuate, he comes across a primary school where he finds the diary of a boy, also called Xiahao, describing the time spent years ago with his schoolmates in that very district at the beginning of its urbanisation. As Xiahao reads the diary, events from his namesake's past resurface. At the same time, Xiahao realises that the diary may contain unexpected prophecies about his own life. With a light and inscrutable touch, newcomer Qiu Sheng constructs a mysterious and fascinating tale, revealing himself as a remarkable talent in China's new independent cinema.

 

Qiu Sheng

Qiu Sheng was born in Hangzhou and studied biomedical engineering before earning a master's degree in Fine Arts from Hong Kong Baptist University. He made his first short film Winterstare in 2014, signing himself as Brandon Q. His first feature film Suburban Birds won the main prize at the Xining FIRST Festival and earned praise at the Locarno Festival in 2018.

 

Suburban Birds (Jiāoqū de niǎo, 2018).

 

Wisdom Tooth

日光之下 Rìguāng zhī xià (In the sunlight), by Liang Ming, 2019, duration 104'

 

Screenplay: Liang Ming. Cinematography: He Shan. Editing: Zhu Lin. Music: Ding Ke. Producer: Sean Chen, Sun Yang. Starring: Lyu Xingchen, Wu Xiaoliang, Wang Jiajia, Wang Weishen, Tao Hai, Chen Yongzhong.

 

In the freezing winter of north-east China, siblings Gu Xi and Gu Liang make a painful transition to adulthood in actor Liang Ming's directorial debut.

 

Left without a family, Gu Xi and his brother Gu Liang live on their own in a small house in the freezing Heilongjiang province in northeast China, near the border with North Korea. The story takes place in the 1990s, in the middle of winter. An oil spill forces Gu Liang to abandon his job as a fisherman and work for the local mafia, where he is soon seduced by easy money. She feels abandoned by her elder brother, who has always taken care of her but is  beginning to neglect her, especially since falling in love with Qingchang, the daughter of the mafia boss on whom he depends. Gu Xi struggles to accept the situation, while trying hard to get along with his brother's new girlfriend. In order not to lose her job as a waitress, she tries with much difficulty to obtain regular documents, being a second child whose birth had never been declared at the registry office by her parents, owing to the one-child law of that time.

 

Liang Ming

Trained as an actor at the University of Communication of China, Liang Ming starred in Lou Ye's films Spring Fever (2009) and Shadow Days (2014). He also worked as an assistant director for Lou on Mystery (2012). His feature film debut Wisdom Tooth was awarded at the Pingyao and Macau Film Festivals in 2019 and the Hong Kong Film Festival in 2020.

 

Wisdom Tooth (Rìguāng zhī xià, 2019)

 

Back to the Wharf

风平浪静 Fēng píng làng jìng (Calm breeze and calm waves)

by Li Xiaofeng, 2020, running time 118'.

 

Screenplay: Yu Xin, Li Xiaofeng. Cinematography: Piao Songri. Editing: Zhang Qi. Music: Wen Zi. Producer: Dun He, Huang Bo. Starring: Zhang Yu, Song Jia, Wang Yanhui, Li Hongqi.

 

Returning to his hometown for his mother's funeral, Song Hao finds himself caught up in the blackmail of a past he had left behind. A harsh contemporary noir, with a jazz musical background.

 

Returning for his mother's funeral to his rainy hometown on China's southern coast, Song Hao must face the consequences of past events. As a student, he would have deserved the scholarship that was instead awarded to Li Tang, son of the vice-mayor and also his best friend. Furious for this injustice, Song Hao wanted to go to Li Tang's, but because of the typhoon underway, he had entered the wrong house where the owner had attacked him, believing him to be a thief. Song Hao had hit him to defend himself and, thinking he had killed him, had fled without realising that his father and Li Tang were watching. To protect him, his father had then killed the wounded man, while his friend kept quiet about this incident. On his return, Song Hao has met Pan Xiaoshuang, the daughter of the local police commissioner, who has always been in love with him and, now that Li Tang is blackmailing him and wanting to involve him in criminal activities, her strong and free character is becoming an essential support for him…

 

Li Xiaofeng

Born in Anhui in 1978, Li Xiaofeng studied film in Brussels and first devoted himself to film criticism and writing. He wrote the screenplay for Zhang Yuan's Dada's Dance (2008), in which he also appeared as a performer. His debut Nezha participated in the New Currents Competition at the 2014 Busan Film Festival. His third film Back to the Wharf participated in Competition at the 2020 Shanghai and Macao Film Festivals.

 

Filmography

Nezha (Shàonǚ nǎ zhā, 2014), Ash (Zhuī-zōng, 2017), Back to the Wharf (Fēng píng làng jìng, 2020).

 

Back to the Wharf (Fēng píng làng jìng, 2020).

 

Legend of Deification

姜子牙 Jiāng Zǐyá, by Cheng Teng and Li Wei, 2020, running time 110'.

 

Screenplay: Xie Xiying. Music: Raymond Wong. Producer: Wang Jing, Gao Weihua. Starring (dubbing): Zheng Xi, Yang Ning, Tutehameng, Yan Meme, Ji Guanlin, Jiang Guangtao.

 

Imaginative animation conceived in 3D, telling about the mythical hero Jiang Ziya. One of the great Chinese box office triumphs of 2020.

 

A sequel to the hugely successful Chinese animation Ne Zha, released in 2019, Legend of Deification is an explosion of colour and imagination, realised in 3D computer animation, intended for an audience of kids and young adults. Freely based on the Ming Dynasty novel "Fēngshén yǎnyì" (lit. The Canonization of the Gods) by Xu Zhonglin, this second product of what has been called the Fengshen Cinematic Universe features Jiang Ziya, a noble Taoist hero figure who is very popular in China. In the film, Jiang Ziya is a divine warrior charged with killing the fox demon who instigated a bloody war between the three Reigns of Immortals, Humans and Fox Demons. After capturing it, Jiang Ziya sees emprisoned inside it an innocent young girl and does not want her to die as well. Guilty of falling into the demon's trap and letting it loose, Jiang Ziya is banished by the Great Master. Exiled to the world of mortals, Jiang Ziya will try to regain his divine status with the help of his friend the God Leopard.

 

Cheng Teng and Li Wei

Legend of Deification is the animated feature debut of Cheng Teng and Li Wei. The film was a hit at the Chinese box office and was presented in competition at the Annecy 2021 International Animation Film Festival.

 

Jiang Ziya: Legend of Deification (Jiāng Zǐyá, 2020).

 

The Final Master

师父 Shīfu (The Master) by Xu Haofeng, 2015, running time 109'.

 

Screenplay: Xu Haofeng. Cinematography: Wang Tianlin. Editing: He Sisi, Xu Haofeng. Music: An Wei. Producer: Lou Xiaoxi. Starring: Liao Fan, Song Jia, Jiang Wenli, King Shih-Chieh, Song Yang, Madina Memet.

 

From the refined master of martial arts films, Xu Haofeng, a whirlwind kung fu intrigue set in the 1930s. For lovers of action and more!

 

The film, which closes Xu Haofeng's trilogy on the world of martial arts, is set in the 1930s in Tientsin, a city in northern China overlooking the Pacific. Chen, originally from Guangdong, is the last master expert in Wing Chun, a typical southern art, and wants to settle in Tientsin to fulfil the promise he made to his deceased master of spreading his model of kung fu. According to the rules imposed by the powerful schools in Tientsin, which practice kung fu in northern styles, Chen would have to defeat eight selected members from them to be allowed to teach. He soon learns that, regardless of the outcome of the challenges, he would anyway be expelled from the city in order to protect the reputation of the local martial arts. Following the advice of the Great Master Zheng, he trains a student who shall represent him in the fights, and be expelled in his place.

 

Xu Haofeng

Xu Haofeng was born in Beijing in 1973. After studying Fine Arts, he entered the Beijing Film Academy. Since 2000, he has published novels focusing on martial arts. He made his feature film debut with The Sword Identity, presented at the Venice Film Festival in 2011. In 2013, he co-wrote the screenplay for Wong Kar-wai's The Grandmaster. His two most recent films, The Final Master (2015) and The Hidden Sword (2017), are both adaptations of his novels.

 

Filmography

The Sword Identity (Wōkòu de zōngjī, 2011), Judge Archer (Jiàn shì liǔ bái yuán, 2012), The Final Master (Shīfu, 2015), The Hidden Sword (Dāobèi cángshēn, 2017).

 

The Final Master (Shīfu, 2015)

 

The Eight Hundred

八佰 Bābǎi (800 Heroes), by Guan Hu, 2020, running time 149'.

 

Screenplay: Guan Hu, Ge Rui, Hu Kun, Huang Dongbin. Cinematography: Cao Yu. Editing: Tu Yiran, He Yongyi. Music: Andrew Kawczynski. Producer: Wang Zhonglei, Liang Jing. Starring: Wang Qianyuan, Zhang Yi, Jiang Wu, Huang Zhizhong, Zhang Junyi, Ou Hao.

 

The blockbuster war film that hit the Chinese box office in 2020. The desperate mission of a Chinese battalion in 1937, during the Sino-Japanese war, is told by director Guan Hu in a spectacular and thrilling unfolding.

 

A grandiose and rousing historical action film, set in Shanghai in 1937, at the height of the Sino-Japanese War. The patriotic episode takes place over four days, against a backdrop of total destruction: while the Chinese troops, overwhelmed by the enemy, are retreating, a battalion of soldiers is sent to defend at all costs the military supply depots near the Suzhou river. It is a desperate mission, aimed at uplifting the population’s morale raise awareness among the international diplomats and residents of the opposite riverbank, in the hope of obtaining support. Guan Hu, one of the most important directors of the Sixth Generation, has enjoyed exceptional success in China with this film, which was shot with great resources and took years to complete. The soundtrack includes the traditional Irish 'Londonderry Air', sung in the finale by Andrea Bocelli with Chinese pop star Na Ying.

 

Guan Hu

Born in Beijing in 1961, Guan Hu graduated from the Beijing Film Academy in 1991, joining the so-called Sixth Generation of Chinese cinema. After his feature film debut with Dirt (1994), he directed several independent films, culminating with Cow, presented at the 2009 Venice Film Festival. Moving on to more commercial productions, he won critical and public acclaim with Mr. Six (2015) and triumphed at the box office with The Eight Hundred (2020).

 

Filmography

Dirt (Tóufǎ luànle, 1994), Cello in a Cab (Làngmàn jiētóu, 1996), Goodbye! Our 1948 (Zàijiàn, wǒmen de yījiǔsìbā, 1999), Eyes of a Beauty (Xīshī yǎn, 2002), Cow (Dòuniú, 2009), Design of Death (Shāshēng, 2012), The Chef, The Actor, The Scoundrel (Chúzi xìzi pǐzi, 2013), Mr.. Six (Lǎo pào er, 2015), Run for Love (Bēn ài, 2016, co-directed with Gao Qunshu, Teng Hua-Tao), My People, My Country (Wǒ hé wǒ de zǔguó, 2019, co-directed with Chen Kaige, Ning Hao, Wen Muye, Xu Zheng, Xue Xiaolu, Zhang Yibai), The Eight Hundred (Bābǎi, 2020), The Sacrifice (Jīngāng chuān, 2020).

 

The Eight Hundred (Bābǎi, 2020).