Set in China


April 25- May 5, 2019

On the occasion of People’s Republic of China’s 70th foundation anniversary, Istanbul Modern Cinema presents a selection from contemporary Chinese cinema of acclaimed films produced within the last year. The films in the 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. The program includes Ash is Purest White (Jiang Hu Er Nü, 2018) by Jia Zhang-ke, one of the leading directors of modern Chinese cinema. Depicting China’s transition to capitalism through a romantic tragedy set in a world of gangsters, the film played in competition at Cannes. The selection also features Winter After Winter (Dong Qu Dong You Lai, 2019) portraying a Chinese family’s struggle for survival during the Japanese invasion of Manchuria. Other films in the program include The Crossing (Guo Chun Tian, 2018) by Bai Xue telling the coming-of-age story of a 16-year-old girl; Hong Kong director Dante Lam’s Operation Red Sea (Hong Hai Xing Dong, 2018) in which Lam took his action war film project to the Middle East following the box-office success of his previous movie in the same genre filmed in Mekong; as well as the first and last film by director Hu Bo, who is also known for his penmanship, An Elephant Sitting Still (Da Xiang Xi Di Er Zuo, 2018) focusing on the 24 hours of a group of characters whose deadlocked lives intersect in north China.



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China | DCP, Color, 136' | Chinese

Director:Feng Xiaogang
Cast:Xuan Huang, Miao Miao, Chuxi Zhong

Xiaoping is a young girl preparing to make a fresh start in her life by joining the art troupe of the People’s Liberation Army during the Cultural Revolution of the 1970s, but she is unable to adapt and is ostracized by the troupe. The only person who understands and defends her is the good-hearted Liu Feng. The friendship between the two will develop over the years and they will eventually find love in one another. Adapted for the screen by Yan Geling based on her own biographical novel and directed by Feng Xiaogang, Youth presents the touching story of a couple who bear witness to events that have shaped society in China’s tumultuous history from the 1970s to the 1990s.



THE FALL, 2018

China | DCP, Color, 108' | Chinese

Director:Zhou Lidong
Cast:Zhou Lidong, Lu Daju, Yan Luyang

Lin is the manager of a local business and leads an ordinary life. His wife lives abroad, and his son is preparing for the university entrance exam. While Lin strives to fulfill his responsibilities as a father and husband, a deal he makes with a big company will topple his entire life and he will find himself in a challenging struggle for survival. Director Zhou Lidong has also written the script and plays the leading role in this first feature which won the NETPAC award at the Warsaw International Film Festival last year.


China | DCP, Color, 96' | Chinese

Director:Peter Zuo
Cast:Wang Haitao, Ren Qingan Ding, Jianjun Dong Bo

In this debut feature, director and screenwriter Peter Zuo subtly intertwines the lives of different characters, creating a multilayered crime drama. Junpo is a miner who is in financial straits, struggling to find money for the treatment of his daughter who is terminally ill. He asks his boss, Liangui, to pay him the compensation they owe him without delay, but he is turned down. Junpo resorts to kidnapping his boss’s daughter to get the money he needs, but nothing goes as expected and he finds himself in a spiral of intrigues that also involve other people.



China, France | DCP, Color, 141' | Chinese

Director:Jia Zhang-Ke
Cast:Zhao Tao, Liao Fan, Xu Zheng

Qiao and Bin are a couple who wield considerable influence in the underworld. Following a gang confrontation, Qiao is sentenced to prison. When she is released five years later, she searches everywhere for her lover Bin, but China has also changed radically, and nothing is as it used to be. Nominated for the Palme d’Or at Cannes last year, director Jia Zhang-Ke’s latest film paints a portrait of a strong woman while also recounting China’s social transformation between 2001 and 2017 through a romantic tragedy set in the world of gangsters.




China | DCP, Color, 142' | Chinese, English

Director:Dante Lam
Cast:Zhang Yi, Huang Jingyu, Hai Qing

While on duty in the Red Sea, the Chinese Navy patrol fleet receives a distress call. Pirates have attacked a cargo ship and the lives of the Chinese passengers on board are in danger. Meanwhile, a civil war is going on in Yewaire where Chinese citizens have been taken hostage during a terrorist attack. The Chinese Navy’s marine corps launches an operation to rescue its citizens. Helmed by the prominent director of Chinese action cinema, Dante Lam, the film is based on a real-life event that happened in 2015 during the civil war in Yemen. Operation Red Sea received four nominations at the Asian Film Awards this year and was the top grossing film in China in 2018.




China | DCP, Color, 99' | Chinese, Cantonese

Director: Bai Xue
Cast:Gang Jiao, Elena Kong, Kai Chi Liu

Although Hong Kong has rejoined the People’s Republic of China, it continues to maintain its autonomy and a border checkpoint still needs to be crossed to enter the region. Through the story of Peipei, Director Bai Xue’s debut feature recounts this situation, which has been continuing for close to two decades. Sixteen-year-old Peipei travels every day to Hong Kong from her home in the mainland city of Shenzhen. She dreams of going to Japan and needs to raise money for this trip, so she begins to smuggle iPhones. The customs officials at the border she crosses every day do not suspect anything from this innocent-looking girl with her school uniform and childlike manner. But over time, Peipei’s relationships with her family and friends will suffer and her daily routine will turn into a highly dangerous adventure.




China | DCP, Black & White and Color, 108' | Chinese

Director:Chengjie Cai
Cast:Tian Tian, Wen Xinyu, Wang Qilin, Wang Fuyou

When the factory she runs with her husband burns down, Erhao barely survives the accident and loses both her livelihood and her husband. Widowed for the third time, the woman is deemed cursed by the villagers. But a few miraculous events make her realize that she can turn the superstition of the villagers into a means of livelihood. After having survived the difficult days following the accident, she begins a new life by introducing herself as a shaman, giving advice to people and finding remedies for their various sufferings.




China | DCP, Color, 234' | Chinese

Director:Hu Bo
Cast:Yu Zhang, Yuchang Peng, Uvin Wang

An Elephant Sitting Still is the first and only film by director Hu Bo, who was also known as a writer. The director committed suicide after finishing the film, which won the FIPRESCI Prize and the Best First Feature Award at the Berlinale. The film tells the epic story of a day in the life of different characters; a boy who is abused by his father, a girl who can’t get along with her mother, and an elderly man whose family wants to place him in a nursing home. They all live in a small town in Northern China where economic depression can be felt in every aspect of life. Each one is trying to escape the troubles, pain and affliction in their lives. They meet on their way to see the elephant that is rumored to spend all day simply sitting still, completely oblivious to the world.




China | DCP, Color, 116' | Chinese

Director:Zhang Yimou
Cast:Chao Deng, Li Sun, Ryan Zheng

Known for such films as House of Flying Daggers and Hero, director Zhang Yimou returns with a film in which he masterfully combines East Asian martial arts and the tradition of Chinese ink painting. Inspired by the Tai Chi diagram known as the yin-and-yang symbol, the film stands out for its visual style. Set during the Three Kingdoms era, the film focuses on an exiled king’s struggle to reclaim his land. While the director surprises us by using less color than he usually does, the film offers us a visual feast, mesmerizing the viewer with its stunning fight scenes shot under the ceaseless rain.




China | DCP, Black & White, 110' | Chinese

Director:Xing Jian
Cast:Yan Bingyan, Gao Qiang, Liu Di,, Hibino Alkira, Yuan Liguo

Presenting a little-known aspect of World War II, Jian Xing brings to the screen the story of a villager who is trying to save his family from extinction during the Japanese occupation of Manchuria. The Japanese are about to take away Lao Si’s three sons. After forcing his eldest son to divorce his wife because he cannot have children, Lao Si wants one of his other sons to have a child with the same woman. The young men are taken by force to labor camp by the Japanese but the youngest escapes and returns home. After a while he gets his sister-in-law pregnant and things get further complicated and out of balance in the household. 




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