Flying Swords of Dragon Gate

Top martial arts proponents showcase their talents in this cinematic hurricane. China at the end of the Ming Dynasty: corrupt eunuchs are terrorising the country with the ‘Western Office’ under Commander Yu leading the way. In rebel fighter Zhao Huai’ an (Jet Li), the ruthless warlord meets his adversary. Good and evil clash at the Dragon Gate Inn, joined by a group of hard-drinking Mongolian tribal warriors. When a sandstorm exposes the golden treasures of an ancient metropolis beneath the inn, more material interests come into play. Shot in 3D, Hong Kong based director Tsui Hark creates a blazing piece of Eastern genre cinema reminiscent of the Shaw Brothers’ classics. In a whirlwind of special effects where people are made to appear like flying spirits, the film portrays two Chinese folk tales about flying swords, magic powers and a romantic love story. [Synopsis courtesy of Berlin International Film Festival]

Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow?

Introverted Weichung has been married to Feng for nine years. They have one son together, and Feng would like to have another child with him. One day Stephen, an old friend who now organises weddings, appears and encourages Weichung to return to the gay life he had previously. Anxious not to lose his wife, Weichung tentatively begins seeing a flight attendant behind Feng’s back.
Weichung’s impulsive sister Mandy dumps her fiancée San-San in the middle of a supermarket. She is equally at a loss and dreams of being with a soap star. Good-natured but desperate San-San tries to woo her back with ever more romantic ideas. While Stephen and even Feng’s mother persist in meddling in the couples’ affairs, Feng becomes an independent woman.
Chen Arvin’s charming film brings classical approaches to partnerships into playful disarray. He comically opens up the borders of the nuclear family, integrating it into a diverse community which manages to strike a balance between independence and the forming of bonds, friendship and sexual fulfilment. [Courtesy of Berlinale]

When Night Falls

Inspired by the notorious case of a young man’s 2008 murder of six Shanghai police officers, the remarkable new film from independent Chinese auteur Ying Liang focuses on the killer’s mother, as she both struggles to comprehend her son’s heinous act and is persecuted by a state that willfully ignores its own laws. Winner of the Best Director and Actress awards at the Locarno Film Festival. [Synopsis courtesy of TIFF]

Forgetting to Know You

Towards the end of the film, the man rewatches the amateur video made at his wedding to Xuesong seven years previously. His little daughter lies asleep on the sofa beside him; his wife didn’t come home this evening. Set in a provincial town with a bus connection to Chongqing, the film tells of a classic middle-class marital crisis in contemporary China. Lies have crept into everyday life; the couple has grown further and further apart, as financial worries have eaten away at the fabric of their relationship. Within this familiar, almost conventional narrative framework, first-time director Quan Ling transports the viewer into everyday life in today’s small town China: The longings of the young taxi driver, the big businessman’s shady tax dealings, the mother-in-law’s forgotten birthday, and rumors of the wife’s affair, which culminate in the question of whether the young daughter actually even looks like her father. Not unlike a soap opera, it is the subtle exploration of the similarities and differences between then and now, here and there which makes up a large part of the film’s appeal. [Synopsis courtesy of Berlinale]

White Deer Plain (Bai lu yuan)

Wang Quan’an’s epic takes place towards the end of imperial China in a period of dramatic political and social upheaval. The film is set in the eponymous White Deer Village in Shaanxi Province where the two most important families – Bai and Lu – and their sons have always lived together in peace. But the turmoil leads to a fierce struggle for land ownership. A young woman new to the village soon finds herself caught between the two camps. Director Wang Quan’an uses the story of these two families as a metaphor for the fate of the Chinese people as first Chinese war lords are overrun by Japanese invaders, then civil war follows hot on the heels of the Second World War and finally the victorious Maoists begin waving their red flags.
BAI LU YUAN is an adaptation of an historical novel of the same name by Chen Zhongshi which was blacklisted for many years on account of its explicit sex scenes. As in his earlier works TUYA’S MARRIAGE (which won the Golden Bear in 2006) and APART TOGETHER (which screened at the Berlinale in 2010) Wang Quan’an’s new work focuses once again on the fortunes of a female protagonist. Using her beauty as a way of gaining influence and a means of survival, the heroine of his latest film nonetheless manages to remain true to herself and those she loves. [Synopsis courtesy of Berlin International Film Festival]

Beijing Flickers

Beijing is happening these days, but not everyone is living the golden life. Dumped, fired, evicted and abandoned by everyone (including his dog), a down-on-his-luck man finds solace with a circle of equally ill-fated friends, in this touching and lighthearted drama from independent Chinese auteur Zhang Yuan (Beijing Bastards). (TIFF.)

Three Sisters

The masterful new documentary from Wang Bing (West of the Tracks) is an intimate, observational portrait of a peasant family who ekes out a humble existence in a small village set against the stunning mountain landscapes of China’s Yunnan province. [Synopsis courtesy of TIFF]

Misconception

For almost 50 years, the world’s population has grown at an alarming rate, raising fears about strains on the Earth’s resources. But how true are these claims? Taking cues from statistics guru Hans Rosling, Misconception offers a provocative glimpse at how the world—and women in particular— are tackling a subject at once personal and global. Following three individuals, director Jessica Yu focuses on the human implications of this highly charged political issue, inspiring a fresh look at the consequences of population growth. [Synopsis courtesy of Tribeca Film Festival]