If you are interested in understanding China, you will be interested in the films we are introducing here. And if you happen to be in New York this month, you have the opportunity to see them on the big screen. From the Guggenheim’s doc series investigating the country’s political, social, economic, and cultural conditions to this year’s National Day box office victor in the mainland, this October slate truly presents a panorama of China. — Haisong Li
The 55th New York Film Festival
‘The Worldly Cave’ 凡洞 (Dir. Zhou Tao, 48 min, China, 2017)
10/06, 10/07 at Film Society Lincoln Center
Premiered at 57th Venice Biennale, Zhou Tao’s video installation ‘The Worldly Cave’ collects images from places all over the world and constructs a topologic booklet. Instead of characters and scripts, Zhou regards the light and the landscape as protagonists of his film, and through them creates dream-like, surreal spaces to present ‘ruins of industrial civilization’ (Flash Art). The screening is Free and open to the public. Showing on loop at EBM Amphitheater.
‘Dragonfly Eyes’ 蜻蜓之眼 (Dir. Xu Bing, 81 min, China, 2017)
10/08, 10/09 at Film Society Lincoln Center
Chinese visual artist Xu Bing’s ambitious debut feature follows an ill-fated romance through a frightening and faceless urban environment, using only closed-circuit surveillance footage. Constructing a fictitious narrative from real-world encounters and frequently spectacular images, Xu turns the story of a young man attempting to relocate his object of desire into a cogent analysis of postmodern identity and digitally mediated communication. Director in Attendance. Watch the trailer HERE
‘The Rider’ (Dir. Chloé Zhao, 104 min, USA, 2017)
10/12, 10/14, 10/15 at Film Society Lincoln Center
After suffering a near fatal head injury, a young cowboy undertakes a search for new identity and what it means to be a man in the heartland of America. Zhao’s ‘The Rider’ “marries the majestic vistas of the greatest American westerns with a deeply interior story of a cowboy having to renegotiate his identity (Ben Croll).” Director in Attendance. Watch a clip HERE.
Margaret Mead Film Festival
‘Almost Heaven’ (Dir. Carol Salter, 75 min, UK, 2017)
10/22 at American Museum of Natural History
This heartfelt coming-of-age story follows the life of Ying Ling, a 17-year-old trainee at a funeral parlor in Changsha, China. With a combination of humor and tenderness, the film captures Ying’s universal struggle to adapt to her new life: she calls her parents often, spends a night at the mall, and tries to stave off the boredom of daily work. Director in Attendance.
‘Never Say Die’ 羞羞的铁拳 (Dir. Yang Song & Chiyu Zhang, 100 min, China, 2017)
Opens on 09/29 at AMC Empire 25
‘Never Say Die’ is about a body-exchange comedy. A boxer and a journalist accidentally exchange bodies after they are struck by current, embarking a series of adventures. The new comedy stars most of the cast members of ‘Goodbye Mr Loser’, the troupe’s highest-grossing movie and the first movie adapted from one of Mahua Funage’s theater plays.
‘Chasing the Dragon’ 追龙 (Dir. Jason Kwan & Jing Wong ,128 min, China, 2017)
Opens on 09/29 at AMC Empire 25
Donnie Yen stars as infamous real-life drug kingpin Crippled Ho, who came to Hong Kong as an illegal immigrant in 1963 and ruthlessly carved an empire from the chaotic underworld of drug dealers and corrupt police that ruled the city under notorious detective Lee Rock (Andy Lau).
‘Sky Hunter’ 空天猎 (Dir. Chen Li, 118 min, China, 2017)
Opens on 10/06 at AMC Empire 25
After the Chinese government discovered that there was a big conspiracy behind all the terrorist attacks, the Chinese air force has to destroy the entire terrorist organization. And the responsibility to defend the honor and the safety of The People’s Republic of China fell on Wu Di (Chen Li), Zhao Yali (Bingbing Fan) and other young pilots’ shoulders. Watch the trailer HERE
‘Our Time Will Come’ 明月几时有 (Dir. Ann Hui, 130 min, China, 2017)
Opens on 10/06 at Metrograph
Ann Hui, a Hong Kong auteur whose output marks her an equal of Stephen Chow and Tsui Hark, returns with this tense, tough historical drama set amidst the Japanese occupation during World War II, in which school teacher Zhou Xun gradually commits to violent action on the side of the resistance. Watch the trailer HERE
‘City of Rock’ 缝纫机乐队 (Dir. Chengpeng Dong, 117 min, China, 2017)
Opens on 10/06 at Regal E-Walk Stadium 13 & RPX
A young musician from a small town in China tries to save his town’s treasured Rock Park by organizing a charity rock concert. Watch the trailer HERE.
‘Human Flow’ (Dir. Ai Weiwei, 145 min, Germany, 2017)
Opens on 10/12 at Angelika Film Center & The Landmark at 57 West
‘Human Flow’ gives a powerful visual expression to the global refugee crisis. Captured over the course of a year amid 23 countries, the documentary follows a chain of urgent human stories that stretches across the globe, and acts as a witness to its subjects and their desperate search for safety, shelter and justice. Q&A with Ai Weiwei on Friday 10/13 at The Landmark at 57 West & Saturday 10/14 at Angelika Film Center. Watch the trailer HERE.
‘The Foreigner’ 英伦对决 (Dir. Martin Campbell, 116 min, China/UK, 2017)
Opens on 10/12 at AMC
A humble businessman with a buried past seeks justice when his daughter is killed in an act of terrorism. A cat-and-mouse conflict ensues with a government official, whose past may hold clues to the killers’ identities. The film, starring Jackie Chan and Pierce Brosnan, is a timely action thriller from the director of ‘Casino Royale.’ Watch the trailer HERE.
‘Daughter of the Nile’ 尼罗河女儿 (Dir. Hou Hsiao-hsien, 91 min, Taiwan, 1987)
Opens on 10/27 at Quad Cinema
Hou Hsiao-hsien returns to the terrain of contemporary youth as pop star Yang Lin playing a teenager who escapes her fraught family situation into the fantasy world of a Japanese comic book about a female time traveler in ancient Egypt who falls in love with a pharoah—echoing her own infatuation with her brother’s gigolo associate. An artfully subdued and unostentatiously refined portrait of nocturnal teenage anomie by one of cinema’s giants. Watch the trailer HERE.
SPECIAL SERIES & SCREENINGS
10/07 at Fou Gallery
Fou Gallery will invite artist Tiger Cai (蔡承良) to introduce his experimental short films and videos, including ‘Six Dreams About a City’ (2014), ‘Truth Tower’ (2013), ‘Twin Paranoramas’ (2015), and his looping animation series(2015-2017). Tiger Chengliang Cai is a visual artist and filmmaker based in both New York City and Shanghai. His works include video arts, experimental films, photographs, paintings and installations.
10/07-10/08 at Metrograph
Born in Los Angeles’ Chinatown, Wong’s early days of working for her father’s laundry made her meticulous about dressing. Since her father wanted a boy, she watched her sister wear masculine clothes to appease him, and this would in time inspire her androgynous onscreen presence, a quality she shared with Marlene Dietrich, with whom she would be glamorously paired in Josef Von Sternberg’s Shanghai Express. Throughout her career Wong would bridle at the exoticized roles she was handed, even taking off for Europe when Hollywood disappointed her, but she approached every film with incredible grace and dignity, and what remains of her through the years is a seductive, incredibly chic, and startlingly modern screen presence.
‘Shanghai Express’ (Dir. Josef von Sternberg, 82 min, USA, 1931)
Anna May Wong was never so sensually photographed as she was when playing an imperious courtesan here, very nearly upstaging her companion and the film’s leading lady, Marlene Dietrich, who re-encounters former lover Clive Brook on an express train rolling through civil war-wracked China in this riot of delirious chinoiserie artifice and sculpted shadowplay.
‘Daughter of The Dragon’ (Dir. Lloyd Corrigan, 70 min, USA, 1931)
Envying Wong’s grand success abroad, Paramount set out to lure the wayward star back to Hollywood, preparing Sax Rohmer’s best-seller Daughter of Fu Manchu as a homecoming vehicle.
‘Toll of the Sea’ (Dir. Chester M. Franklin, 54 min, USA, 1922)
Anna May Wong in color! The earliest surviving two-color Technicolor feature stars Wong, seventeen years old and playing her first lead, as “Lotus Flower,” a Chinese woman abandoned by her white American husband, in a Sinophile reworking of the tragic Madame Butterfly.
Film Screening and Discussion: ‘The Chinese Lives of Uli Sigg’ (Dir. Michael Schindhelm, 93 min, Switzerland. 2017)
10/10 at Asia Society New York
Discover the fascinating life of one of the leading collectors of contemporary Chinese art, Swiss businessman and diplomat Uli Sigg. The film explores the West’s embrace of Chinese contemporary art, through the eyes of Sigg and the artists he championed. Ai Weiwei, Cao Fei, Feng Mengbo, and Wang Guangyi are interviewed along with curators, diplomats, architects and others. Followed by a conversation with Uli Sigg.
Special Screening: ‘Golden Venture’ (Dir. Peter Cohn, 90 min, USA, 2006)
10/11 at Museum of Chinese in America
The film chronicles the ongoing struggles of passengers who were aboard the Golden Venture, an immigrant smuggling ship that ran aground near New York City in 1993. An examination of how political pressures, media scrutiny, and reactionary policies can warp human lives, Golden Venture is a timely meditation on the state of the U.S. immigration detention system. Followed by Q&A with filmmaker Peter Cohn. Watch the trailer HERE.
Opens on 10/14 at The Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum
Cocurated by Ai Weiwei and Wang Fen, this series presents twenty independent documentaries by China’s most daring artists and filmmakers investigating the political, social, economic, and cultural conditions of contemporary China. Produced between 2000 and 2017, many of the films will be screened in the United States for the first time.
‘Nightingale, Not the Only Voice’ 夜莺不是唯一的歌喉 (Dir. Tang Danhong, 180 min, China, 2000)
This film follows three marginal artists at the turn of the millennium, including the film’s director, on their shared journey through real and psychological oppression to self-discovery. US premiere. Director in attendance at the 10/13 screening. Watch trailer HERE.
‘We the Workers’ 凶年之畔 (Dir. Huang Wenhai, 173 min, China, 2017)
The “China miracle” has been built on the backs of hundreds of millions of migrant laborers. This film features workers from different provinces spanning two generations who have resisted this force through activist struggle and action. US premiere. Director in attendance at the 11/03 screening.
‘Plastic China’ 塑料王国 (Dir. Wang Jiuliang, 82 min, China, 2016)
Chronicling the lives of two families operating a plastic recycling facility, ‘Plastic China’ examines global consumption and culture through the eyes and hands of those who handle its refuse. Watch trailer HERE.
Special Screening: ‘Born in China’ 我们诞生在中国 (Dir. Lu Chuan, 79 min, China, 2016)
10/15 at BAM Rose Cinema
Featuring stunning cinematography captured on the wings of a red-crowned crane, ‘Born in China’ captures the adventures of three animal families—the majestic panda, the savvy golden monkey, and the elusive snow leopard—with some remarkably intimate moments. Part of BAMkids and BAMkids Movie Matinees. Watch the trailer HERE.
Special Screening: ‘Snakeheads’ (Dir. Ying Chan, Peter Kwong & Jon Alpert, 1994)
10/19 at Museum of Chinese in America
Undercover in the Fouzhou Province of China, a team of filmmakers initiate negotiations to bring Chinese slave labor into the United States. Followed by Q&A with filmmaker. Watch the trailer HERE.
Special Screenings: ‘I Am Another You’ (Dir. Nanfu Wang, 80 min, USA, 2017)
10/29 at Museum of the Moving Image
When Chinese filmmaker Nanfu Wang first came to America, Florida seemed like an exotic frontier full of theme parks, prehistoric swamp creatures, and sunburned denizens. It is there that she encounters Dylan, a charismatic young drifter who left a comfortable home and loving family for a life of intentional homelessness. Fascinated by his choice and rejection of society’s rules, Wang follows Dylan with her camera on a journey that takes her from city to city across the United States in which she explores the meaning of freedom—and its limits. Watch the trailer HERE.