Think you know China? Think again. To mark Chinese New Year, four award-winning films offering different perspectives on the complex transformations taking place in contemporary Chinese cinema, society and industry, and how they relate to the wider world will run at Edinburgh Filmhouse on Wed 25, Thurs 26, Sat 28 and Sun 29 January 2012. Please check out the Filmhouse website for timings, ticket prices and special offers.
Presented by Take One Action Film Festivals, all screenings will be followed by expert and audience discussion. This programme is supported by the Confucius Institute for Scotland in the University of Edinburgh, Scotland China Education Network, Scotland-China Association and the Blackford Trust.
Wed 25th Jan 2012 (eve) `Mr Tree` (Jie Han, 2011)
This double prize winner at Shanghai Film Festival is a complex reflection on the challenges and questions arising from China`s rapidly changing rural economy. The film charts a year in the life of Mr Shu (aka Tree), a Chinese man with learning difficulties whose life allegorically mirrors the social and economic development of his home-town. Generally viewed as a benign but lazy idiot, Shu loses his job after a workplace accident but at the same time transcends community hierarchies, giving the viewer a unique insight into the ties between local leaders, families, workers, businessmen, and even the past and future. When in parallel, a locally-run mining company starts to relocate the townspeople, and Shu gets drawn into doomed marriage with a deaf mute girl, the town`s carefully maintained boundaries between order and disorder begin to unravel. Although it is never clear whether the dangers associated with a changing China are merely a mental disturbance or situated more widely, the film nonetheless begs the question: where is China going?
“A satire that bridges the personal and political with fantasy and black humour.” The Hollywood Reporter
Winner – Jury Prize, Best Director, Shanghai International Film Festival
This film will be followed by a discussion on the changing face of China’s rural economy and Chinese cinema.
Thursday 26th January 2012 (eve) `Last Train Home` (Lixin Fan, 2009)
Every spring, China’s cities are plunged into chaos, as all at once, a tidal wave of humanity attempts to return home by train. It is the Chinese New Year. The wave is made up of millions of migrant factory workers, and the homes they seek are the rural villages and families they left behind to find work in the booming coastal cities. It is an epic spectacle that tells us much about China, as it rapidly modernises and increases its global economic dominance. Last Train Home draws us into the fractured lives of a single migrant family caught up in this annual migration. Intimate and candid, the film paints a human portrait of the dramatic changes sweeping China.
“An exceptional documentary… stunningly photographed.” IndieWire
Winner – Best Feature Documentary, International Documentary Film Festival Amsterdam
This showing will be followed by a discussion
Saturday 28th January 2012(eve) `Apart Together` (Wang Quan’an, 2010)
In his follow-up to the Berlin Golden Bear winner `Tuya`s Marriage`, director Wang Quan’an has fashioned a bittersweet late life romance, reuniting former lovers separated some fifty years earlier by the end of China’s civil war.
When a political thaw permits surviving veterans in Taiwan to return to Shanghai to visit their families, ex nationalist soldier Liu returns to his native city Shanghai to find the first love of his life, Qiao, who he left behind, pregnant, five decades earlier. In the meantime, Qiao has married and built a family, but Liu tracks her down and is determined to get the family’s approval to take her away with him. Made with support from the Chinese government, `Apart Together` marks a new frontier in representations of China’s history and its relationships with the outside world.
“An engaging chamber piece about autumnal romance, bittersweet memory and self-sacrifice.” The Times
Winner – Best Screenplay, Berlin International Film Festival
This programme will be followed by a discussion
Sunday 28th January 2012 (eve) `Manufactured Landscapes` (Jennifer Baichwal, 2008)
In this series of extraordinary visual portraits, renowned artist Edward Burtynsky travels through China photographing the evidence and effects of its massive industrial revolution and the implicit impact on the environment. Director Jennifer Baichwal captures the artist at work amid some of the most surreal landscapes of the 21st century: the mountains of `ewaste` in China where 50% of the world`s computers end up to be recycled; the Yangtze Valley where whole towns are being demolished to make way for the Three Gorges Dam and the crowded skyline of Shanghai which has recently attracted millions of new inhabitants.
“Powerful! Engrossing! Unsettlingly beautiful!” LA Times
Winner – Best Canadian Film, Toronto International Film Festival
This showing will be followed by discussion about Chinese industrialisation and its social and environmental impacts.
Free School Screening `Please Vote For Me`(2009) Wed 25th Jan 2012 at 10.30am
Sponsored by SCEN
Although millions of Chinese recently voted in China’s version of Pop Idol, political elections in China currently only take place only inside the Communist Party. Against this background, `Please Vote For Me` follows the experiment of one grade 3 class in an elementary school in the Chinese city of Wuhan, where three eight year old candidates stand for election to the coveted position of class monitor. As their campaigns progress, they are abetted and egged on by teachers and their doting parents, whose actions start to influence the results.
Director Weijun Chen’s film explores how, if democracy came to China, it would be received. Is democracy a universal value that fits human nature or do elections inevitably lead to manipulation? `Please Vote for Me` paints a portrait of a society and a town through a school, its children and its families.
For more world-changing cinema visit www.takeoneaction.org.uk