An angry miner revolts against the corruption of his village leaders. A migrant worker at home for the New Year discovers the infinite possibilities a firearm can offer. A pretty receptionist at a sauna is pushed to the limit when a rich client assaults her. A young factory worker goes from job to job trying to improve his lot in life. Four people, four different provinces. A reflection on contemporary China: that of an economic giant slowly being eroded by violence.
- Black Pearl Award- Abu Dhabi Film Festival
- Best Foreign Feature Jury Award - Denver IFF
- Best Foreign Film - Le Syndicat français de la Critique de cinéma
- Special Jury Award - Pune IFF
- Best Director - Minsk IFF
- Wu Jiang
- Vivien Li
- Lanshan Luo
- Zhangke Jia
- Likwai Yu
- Matthieu Laclau
- Giong Lim
This film is about four deaths, four incidents which actually happened in China in recent years: three murders and one suicide. These incidents are well-known to people throughout China. They happened in Shanxi, Chongqing, Hubei and Guangdong – that is,from the north to the south,spanning much of the country. I wanted to use these news reports to build a comprehensive portrait of life in contemporary China. China is still changing rapidly, in a way that makes the country look more prosperous than before. But many people face personal crises because of the uneven spread of wealth across the country and the vast disparities between the rich and the poor. Individual people can be stripped of their dignity at any time. Violence is increasing. It’s clear that resorting to violence is the quickest and most direct way that the weak can try to restore their lost dignity. For reasons I can’t fully explain, these four individuals and the incidents they were involved in remind me of King Hu’s martial arts films. I’ve drawn on inspiration from the martial arts genre to construct these present-day narratives. Throughout the ages, the predicaments that individuals face have changed very little – just as their responsesto those predicaments have also changed very little. I also see this as a film about the sometimes hidden connections between people, that make me want to question the way oursociety has evolved. In this‘civilised’society that we have taken so long to evolve, what actually links one person with another?
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(...) the film is in any case not simply a racy adventure in exploitation, but an angry, painful, satirical lunge into what the director clearly sees as the dark heart of modern China, and a real attempt to represent this to audiences elsewhere in the world.
Allowing content to dictate form, he has adopted a pulpy and accessible realist style in order to tackle some of his country’s most notorious recent tragedies on a broad, panoramic canvas.
Jia Zhangke was born in Fenyang, Shanxi, in 1970, and graduated from the Beijing Film Academy. His debut feature UNKNOWN PLEASURES (2002) won prizes in Berlin, Vancouver and elsewhere. Since then, his films have routinely premiered in the major European festivals. STILL LIFE won the Golden Lion in Venice IFF in 2006, and A TOUCH OF SIN won the Best Screenplay prize in Cannes IFF in 2013. Several of his films have blurred the line between fiction and documentary. He has also produced films by many young directors, and has made cameo appearances in films for other directors. In 2015, Jia Zhangke returned to Cannes to receive the Carrosse d’Or Prize and his feature MOUNTAINS MAY DEPART (2015) was selected in Competition. In 2018 ASH IS PUREST WHITE featured in competition at Cannes 2018. SWIMMING OUT TILL THE SEA TURNS BLUE (2020) premiered at Berlinale.