Shanghai: three Chinese directors to watch

Shanghai: three Chinese directors to watch

The 25th The Shanghai International Film Festival has given the world a new insight into emerging trends and talent in China’s film industry as it fully returns to work after three years of access restrictions imposed by the pandemic.

Organizers reported mostly sold-out screenings as Chinese film-lovers flock back to theaters and visiting filmmakers found them fully engaged in the post-screening Q&A and assorted masterclasses the festival hosted.

The curtain officially comes down on Sunday – after the SIFF has screened around 450 films – and The Hollywood Reporter has selected three Chinese films by three Chinese directors that we expect you will hear more about in the future.

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All earsdirected by Liu Jiayin

Writer-director Liu Jiayin established herself as one of the most exciting and unique talents to emerge from China in the 2000s and then duly disappeared into academia. You have raised generations of screenwriters at the Beijing Film Academy for several years. Her first two films- Ox leather AND Oxhide II – played Berlin respectively, and then Cannes and Rotterdam, and were characterized by her ability to mix documentary and narrative styles, with long, languid takes. All ears it is both a return and a return to form. The film stars Hu Ge, an actor with over 70 million followers on Twitter-like Chinese Weibo, as a screenwriter who trades real life for real life as he begins to earn a living by writing eulogy. The Shanghai audience was impressed by his simplicity and his style. “The story is loosely based on some of my experiences,” Liu explained to the assembled media. “Just like me, the protagonist was confused about his career and his life, but finally discovers what his true position is.”

Maydirected by Lu Dong

The international jury for SIFF’s Asian New Talent Awards was united in their praise for both the “mature” and “innovativeness” of this year’s selections, including this second feature from Luo Dong (New York, New York), a multi-hyphenated whose past includes stints in cinematography, music, architecture and fashion. There were a remarkable number of films at SIFF dealing with the issues of aging and how characters deal with mortality – chalk it up to the last few years of collective global trauma – but Dong’s film focuses more on providing inspiration, in the form of a charismatic septuagenarian (Chen Yumei) who is looking for love and who doesn’t care what people think about how much she’s willing to go to find it. Once again, the film plays with the notions of what is a documentary and what is a drama, and the audience is left wondering what is real and what is fictional.

Daydreamingdirected by Wang Zichuan

The debut effort by Shanghai Theater Academy graduate Wang Zichuan takes the everyday trials and tribulations of an eccentric third-grade Zhu Tong (Yue Hao) and melds them with flights of fancy that transform contemporary life in China into a wonderland which includes talking aliens and flowers. The director said during a question and answer session that he stumbled upon the concept when he thought about what actually goes through a child’s mind when he is faced with what he sees as life’s problems. Then he decided to turn the most mundane into fantasy, and the Shanghai audience was completely captivated by Yue, in her first role. “I only wish my childhood experiences were as colorful as Zhu’s,” said the director. Also featured in the Asian New Talent award.