Winner of the top prize at last year’s Locarno Film Festival, Yeo Siew Hua’s third feature is a clever, evocative shape-shifter that begins as a kind of dreamy noir and ends up a sober, politically incisive work of social realism. First we follow gruff, disenchanted detective Lok (Peter Yu) as he searches for Wang (Liu Xiaoyi), a missing construction worker from mainland China. We’re then ushered back in time to see Wang’s life before his disappearance—and what had seemed a typical noir scenario instead turns out to be far more in line with reality as we know it today. A Netflix release. Q&As with Yeo Siew Hua on April 6 & 7.
At the beginning of each month, CFI posts a comprehensive list of Chinese film screenings in NYC and LA. To help you better understand China through cinema, we include films that are made by Chinese filmmakers, set in China, or tell Chinese stories. Here is what to see in April.
Suburban Birds 郊区的鸟 (QIU Sheng, 113 min, 2018)
Opens on April 5 at Metrograph
Qiu Sheng’s feature debut is a bold and beguiling opening salvo from a singular talent, twining together two distinct narrative strands—one involving land surveyors preparing for the laying of subway tracks investigating a strange phenomenon in the sinking soil of a suburban development, another following preadolescents as they rove unsupervised in the streets of the same town. These “halves” are separate and stylistically distinct, yet curiously interconnected by overlaps, rhyming images, and the presence of a character named Xiahao, in one part played by adult Mason Lee, in another, by young Gong Xiahao. In the space between these sections lays a gulf and a mystery, a challenge to the audience, as well as an invitation to surrender to the film’s particular poetic logic.
Qiu Sheng will be present for Q&As at both the Friday (4/5) 7 pm show and the Saturday (4/6) 4:00 pm show
Update: After unexpected delays, Suburban Birds will also screen at New Directors/New Films on April 6 and April 7. For more information, please click here.
Long Day’s Journey into Night 地球最后的夜晚 （BI Gan, 140 min, 2018)
Bi Gan follows up his knockout debut, Kaili Blues, with this noir-tinged stunner about a lost soul (Jue Huang) on a quest to find a missing woman from his past (Wei Tang, Lust, Caution). Following leads across Guizhou province, he crosses paths with a series of colorful characters, among them a prickly hairdresser played by Taiwanese superstar Sylvia Chang. When the search leads him to a dingy movie theater, the film launches into an hour-long, gravity-defying 3D sequence shot that plunges its protagonist—and us—into a labyrinthine cityscape. An NYFF56 selection. A Kino Lorber release.
Still in Theatre:
Ash Is Purest White 江湖儿女 (Jia Zhangke, 141 min, 2018)
Through April 4 at Laemmle Monica (LA)
CineCina Film Festival was founded and run by a group of innovative young film scholars and professionals from both China and the US. CineCina believes that cinema is a powerful medium that can bridge language differences and convey ideas across different cultural backgrounds.
The first edition of CineCina Film Festival will take place in New York City from April 5 to 19, 2019. To know more about venues, ticketing and schedule, please visit here.
On the occasion of the theatrical release of LOU Ye’s latest film The Shadow Play in China, CineCina will present the first ever retrospective of his works in North America, titled “Observer of Chinese Desires,” including all his films from Suzhou River (2000) to Blind Massage (2014), four of which will be screened on 35mm. Passes for the Lou Ye retrospective and for screenings at Symphony Space are available on Eventbrite as well.
Opening Film: Four Springs 四个春天 (LU Qingyi, 105 min 2018)
April 5 at SVA Theatre | April 9 at Symphony Space
Four Springs is a documentary that presents a family’s daily life in a remote town in Guizhou over four years. From a subjective angle, Lu’s camera records scenes of everyday life: chores, singing, excursions into nature, visits to friends and extended family, funerals, reunions, and separation. The film offers an intimate portrait of its two main characters — Lu’s own parents — and their strength in the face of irretrievable loss in life. North America Premiere. Followed by Q&A with director Lu Qingyi.
CineCina will also present Jun Li’s Tracey, Zhou Shengwei’s SHe, and S. Louisa Wei’s Havana Divas (director’s cut). Among others, we will also show a number of award winners and contenders from mainland China, including Pengfei’s The Taste of Rice Flower, Cai Chengjie’s The Widowed Witch, and Zheng Dasheng’s Bangzi Melody — all will be screened in New York for the very first time. Directors S. Louisa Wei, and Yang Li-chou (Father, East Coast premiere) will join us for post-screening Q&As.
A Land Imagined 幻土 (Yeo Siew Hua , 95 min, 2018)
April 6 & 7 at MoMA & Film Society at Lincoln Center
Continuing its tradition of elevating exceptional storytelling rooted in today’s global film communities, the 18th annual Festival will showcase debut works from emerging talent and new works from notable filmmakers. The program includes discoveries, comedies, music-centered, political and social films.
The 2019 Tribeca Film Festival takes place April 24 – May 5.
Leftover Women (Shosh Shlam & Hilla Medalia, 85 min, 2019)
4/27 – 5/5
In China, single women are under immense pressure to marry young or face the stigma that comes with being “leftover.” Through marriage markets, matchmakers, and government-sponsored dating festivals, Leftover Women follows three hopeful singles seeking to define love on their own terms. World Premiere.
A Kid from Coney Island (Chike Ozah & Coodie Simmons, 95 min, 2019)
4/27 – 05/04
From the streets of Coney Island to the NBA, the story of basketball star Stephon Marbury reveals that often life is about the journey, not the destination—and the unexpected places your dreams may take you. Also playing as part of the Tribeca/ESPN Sports Film Festival. World Premiere.
One Child Nation (Nanfu Wang & Jialing Zhang, 85 min, 2019)
04/30 – 05/04
First-time mother and filmmaker Nanfu Wang uncovers the untold history of China’s One-Child policy and the generations of parents and children forever shaped by this social experiment. New York Premiere.
Our Time Machine (Yang Sun & S. Leo Chiang, 80 min, 2019)
When influential Chinese artist Ma Liang (a.k.a. Maleonn) realizes that his father Ma Ke, an accomplished Peking Opera director, is suffering from Alzheimer’s disease, he invites his father to collaborate on his most ambitious project to date – a haunting, magical, autobiographical stage performance featuring life-size mechanical puppets called “Papa’s Time Machine”. Through the creation of this play, the two men confront their mortality before time runs out and memories are lost forever. World Premiere.
Celebrating its sixth year, the Art of the Real festival offers a survey of the most vital and innovative voices in nonfiction and hybrid filmmaking.
Breathless Animals (Lei Lei, 68 min, 2019)
04/27 at Film Society at Lincoln Center
In Chinese filmmaker Lei Lei’s first feature, the director’s mother speaks in voiceover about her parents, the trials and tribulations of her youth, Maoist China, and violent dreams of animals fueled by late nights in front of the television. Accompanying these recollections, which drift across the soundtrack, are anonymous still and moving images, found footage, and repurposed photographs, occasionally made to skip, stutter, or slow through analog animation techniques. As memories weave through material evidence of the past, ruptures emerge in the film’s construction, calling upon the mind’s eye to fill in the gaps of history.
FILM SERIES & SPECIAL SCREENINGS
The Fate of Lee Khan 迎春阁之风波 (King Hu, 105 min, 1973)
04/05 – 04/07 at Metrograph
One of the ultimate achievements of King Hu, the foremost genius of the high- flying, sword-swinging wuxia—or “martial heroes”—film. Following the model of his Dragon Inn, Hu again centers the action at a roadside respite, this one a veritable hot pot of simmering conflict, where girl-gang undercover resistance fighters are pitted against oppressive Mongols, as the Chinese underground tries to stop a traitor from passing vital information to warlord Lee Khan. The ensuing struggle is highlighted by wry comic moments, masterful mise-en-scene, and breakout fight scenes from choreographer Sammo Hung, who has a bevy of deadly female stars leading the charge, including Hong Kong cinema stalwart Li Li-hua and martial arts ingénue Angela Mao.
Love Education 相爱相亲 (Sylvia Chang, 2017)
Starts on April 19
What better way to kick off MUBI’s Luminaries program ( presenting works from the established masters of cinema) than with the work of veteran Taiwanese filmmaker Sylvia Chang, a groundbreaking director and actress who has been making films for nearly four decades. Chang wrote, directed and starred in her most recent work, Love Education(Busan 2017) – an elegant, nuanced melodrama about womanhood, love and family.