September 17- 27, 2020
Istanbul Modern Cinema presents a selection of contemporary Chinese films that have been hits at the box office or in festivals. The films in this year’s selection explore current socioeconomic transformations in Chinese society and culture through different subjects and characters, while also reflecting Chinese cinema’s expansion to include new genres as it occupies an ever-growing place in world cinema.
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DWELLING IN THE FUCHUN MOUNTAINS
SO LONG, MY SON
SUMMER OF CHANGSHA
TO LIVE TO SING
THE WILD GOOSE LAKE
WILD GOOSE LAKE (NAN FANG CHE ZHAN DE JU HUI), 2019
China, France | DCP, Color, 113’ | Chinese
Director: Diao Yinan
Cast: Hu Ge, Kwei Lun-Mei, Liao Fan
Widely celebrated with his earlier feature length film, Black Coal, Thin Ice, director Diao Yinan’s new feature is an intricately designed film noir. Taking place in Wuhan, a city that became infamous with the pandemic, the film follows Zhou Zenong, the leader of a motorcycle gang. When Zenong accidentally kills a police officer, the police put a reward on his head, and he is forced to flee from both the police and the gangs who are after him for the money. While on the run, he encounters a woman who is also on the run for her freedom, and the two embark upon a new adventuretogether. Inspired by real events taking place in Wuhan in 2012, Wild Goose Lake was the only film from China nominated for the Palme d’Or at the Cannes Film Festival last year.
SATURDAY FICTION (LAN XİN DA JU YUAN), 2019
China | DCP, Black-White, 126' | Chinese, English
Director: Lou Ye
Cast: Gong Li, Chao Mark, Greggory Pascal
Saturday Fiction is a high-tension spy thriller set in Japanese-occupied Shanghai during the Second World War. Famous actor Jean Yu returns to the city to take part in a theater play. However, there are other reasons for this move. Secret microphones, double-sided mirrors, binoculars and coded messages raise the tension during secret meetings and transform the play’s opening night into an internationally significant political event. Star actor of Chinese cinema, Gong Li gives an impressive performance as the lead of the film, which was nominated for the Golden Lion at the Venice Film Festival.
SO LONG MY SON (DIJIUTIANCHANG), 2019
China | DCP, Color, 185’ | Chinese
Director: Wang Xiaoshuai
Cast: Wang Jingchun, Yong Mei, Qi Xi
So Long My Son, the new film by Xiaoshuai, one of the Sixth Generation directors of Chinese cinema, deals with the striking impact of China's one-child policy through the experiences of two families whose children are close friends. Working at a factory, the Liyun and Yaojun couple and their son is good friends with Haiyan and her family. Liyun and Yaojun’s son goes swimming at the insistence of his friend and drowns. His mother, Liyun, who finds out that she is pregnant again just before this tragic incident, is compelled to get an abortion by the authorities who have been notified by Haiyan, whom she thought was a friend. The paths of these two families are separated following these events. Although this epic melodrama tells a story that spans 30 years throughout its three-hour duration, its detailed visuals, masterful acting and finely crafted editing make the film fly by at the blink of an eye.
THE FAREWELL, 2019
USA | DCP, Color, 100’ | Chinese, English
Director: Lulu Wang
Cast: Awkwafina, Diana Lin, Zhao Shuzhen
Billi returns to her homeland China after finding out that her paternal grandmother, Nai Nai has terminal lung cancer. While her family is busy preparing a fake wedding and hiding the truth about their grandmother’s health, Billi thinks that it is a mistake to keep the diagnosis a secret from Nai Nai. Loosely based on director Lulu Wang’s own life, this family comedy-drama brought its leading actress Awkwafina, the Golden Globe for Best Actress.
SUMMER OF CHANGSHA (LIU YU TIAN), 2019
China | DCP, Color, 120’ | Chinese
Director: Zu Feng
Cast: Chen Minghao, Huang Lu, Tian Yu
Police detective A Bin intends to resign from his position after his girlfriend commits suicide. But when a severed arm is found in the river, A Bin is responsible for sifting through the missing persons lists, and he finds himself as part of this investigation. Meanwhile he meets a beautiful doctor whose brother has been missing for weeks. As these two characters try to deal with the feelings of guilt, will this newfound love prospect help mend their scars? Screened as part of the Un Certain Regard section at the Cannes Film Festival, Summer of Changsha is a love story enwrapped in a police drama.
TO LIVE TO SING (HUO ZHE CHANG ZHE), 2019
China, France, Canada | DCP, Color, 105’ | Chinese, Cantonese
Director: Johnny Ma
Cast: Zhao Xiaoli, Gan Guidan, Yan Xihu
A Sichuan Opera troupe led by Zhao Li, tries to keep the opera open through inexpensive productions inside the crumbling opera building despite its diminishing audience numbers. Zhao Li struggles with all her might to keep this art form alive while its audience is gradually disappearing. Zhao Li does not give up the fight even though news arrives that the opera building is set to be demolished and the younger members of the troupe start leaving for higher paid jobs. Meanwhile, fantastic characters of the opera will start entering her life through other means. Chinese-born Canadian director Johnny Ma decided to bring this artistic troupe’s hardships to the cinema screens after watching a documentary on the Sichuan Opera.
DWELLING IN THE FUCHUN MOUNTAINS (CHUN JIANG SHUI NUAN), 2019
China | DCP, Color, 150’ | Chinese
Director: Gu Xiaogang
Cast: Dong Zhenyang, Du Hongjun, Mu Wei
In his first feature-length film, Xiaogang Gu is inspired by a famous landscape painting by Huang Gongwang, made in the 14th century. Named after the painting, the film reflects the visual aesthetics of this seven-meter long Chinese parchment as it brings the story of the Yu family during their one-year stay in Fuyang. Set in Fuyang's beautiful river geography, this family drama reveals the ups and downs in the lives of four adult sons, the conflict between tradition and modern reality, and the changes that the city has undergone through urban transformation. The first film in a trilogy, Dwelling in the Fuchun Mountains was nominated for the Critics' Week Grand Prize at the Cannes Film Festival.
BALLOON (QI QIU), 2019
China | DCP, Color, 102’ | Chinese, Tibetan
Director: Pema Tseden
Cast: Wangmo Sonam, Jinpa, Tso Yangshik
Tibetan director Tseden’s film portrays the story of a family living in rural Tibet. The story begins with two children walking around blown-up condoms they found at home thinking they are balloons. At the center of the film are Drolkar, who is content with three children owing to the Chinese government’s birth control program, and her sister who chooses to become a Buddhist nun.
They both try to preserve their independence within their religious society where belief in reincarnation and the spiritual world are intense. With its impressive color palette and handheld camera, Balloon is a memorable film that addresses its characters struggling between fate and free will as well as old and new, with a warm and humorous approach.
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