Live Action (Short Subject) Nominees

Currently browsing the "Chinese" category.

Hooligan Sparrow

I love gutsy women and Ye Haiyan aka Hooligan Sparrow has got to be one of the gutsiest around. As a Chinese women’s rights activist she has put herself in serious peril over and over to get the government to treat women better. In this gripping documentary, American based Chinese filmmaker Nanfu Wang also puts herself in jeopardy simply by telling Ye’s story. She begins in the south of China on Hainan Island with a group of women who are protesting outside a school whose principal, accused of supplying six underage girls to government officials for sex, has been given a slap on the wrist. And this first encounter with the police (and their undercover thugs) and the women on the front lines of China’s women’s activism sets up the whole film. The filmmaker is questioned by police and becomes along with Hooligan Sparrow the object of constant surveillance and intimidation.

Wolf Totem

Wolf Totem is based on one of my favorite books of the last decade, so it had a lot to live up to. Sadly, it didn’t. I saw it on a small screen though, and could tell that on a big screen (or even better, the IMAX version) the landscape would be a powerful element in the story, perhaps even making up for some of the narrative deficiencies in the adaptation. The book is a semi-autobiography of Chen Zhen, a young Chinese college student during the Cultural Revolution, who is sent out to Inner Mongolia with one of his friends to civilize the nomads. He grows to respect the indigenous people, their way of life, and particularly the wolves. It is a tale of the massive environmental and cultural damage done by the Han Chinese in their misguided conquest of the Mongolian grasslands. As adapted and directed by Jean-Jacques Annaud (Quest for Fire, Seven Years in Tibet) though, the story is more about the wolves as fierce killers than as part of the life cycle of the place.

Free China: The Courage to Believe

This shortish documentary (61 minutes) tells the story of two people living on opposite sides of the earth who were both persecuted for their belief in Falun Gong, a modern Chinese spiritual practice that combines Buddhism and Daoism. It follows the stories of Jennifer Zeng, a Communist party member living in Beijing and Dr. Charles Lee, a US citizen of Chinese birth, both of whom ran afoul of the Chinese government all because they would not give up their belief in a peaceful practice that the Party deemed evil.

Ai Weiwei: Never Sorry

Without doubt Ai Weiwei is the most famous Chinese artist on the planet. His art is thought provoking, but his life, even more so. The documentary Ai Weiwei: Never Sorry gives us a closeup and personal view of the man, his art and the courage he has shown in speaking truth to power, a very dangerous thing to do in China. Filmmaker Alison Klayman was fortunate to be allowed access to Ai for three years, following him as he prepared for shows around the world, and as he stood up for the young victims of the 2008 Sichuan earthquake.

2010 Fall Movies

We’re moving out of the summer blockbuster kids’ movies and into the fall when traditionally a more serious adult roster hits the screens. This year? Well, there are a few that seem Oscar worthy, several with our favorite men headlining, a couple that look like real chick flicks and what just might be some nice comedies. See for yourself.

When Ruo Ma was Seventeen

This sweet coming of age story is almost worth seeing just for the scenery alone. Shot in southern China’s Yunnan province, When Ruo Ma was Seventeen uses the beautiful landscape of terraced paddy fields as a reminder that we are not in any place we know. It is far removed from our world. But Ruo Ma has lived here all her life with her old grandma, working these terraced fields with her fellow Hani (aka Xiani.) Now 17, she goes to town to make some money selling roasted corn on the street.

Perhaps Love 如果·愛

If you’re looking for a good musical romance in Chinese, “Perhaps Love” is your movie. It stars Asian heart throb Takeshi Kaneshiro and Superstar singer Jacky Cheung in a love triangle with Zhou Xun. The movie opens with Lin Jiandong (Takeshi Kaneshiro) arriving in Shanghai to co-star in a musical film with his old flame Sun Na (Zhou Xun) who is in a relationship with the famous director Nie Wen (Jacky Cheung). The musical they are all making together is about a young woman who loses her memory and is taken under the wing of a circus owner who falls in love with her, but her old love comes back for her and she is torn between the two men. Meanwhile in the real world outside the film, the actor flashes back to his romance 10 years earlier with his co-star and yearns to rekindle their flame. She is initially reluctant to the point of indifference to him, but his persistence pays off and their romances both on and off screen mirror one another.

The Road Home 我的父亲母亲 (1989)

“The Road Home” is a fantastic chick flick, a 3 hankie love story set in a small village in north China sometime during the Cultural Revolution though you’d never know that from the look of the village; it could be any time. It is the edge of nowhere,  surrounded by stunning scenery, gorgeously shot by director Zhang Yimou. The film introduces the beautiful young Zhang Ziyi who lept on to stardom in “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon ” and “Memoirs of a Geisha,” here playing a village girl who falls for the new school teacher who comes to her village.

Ikiru 生きる & Riding Alone for Thousands of Miles 千里走单骑

I rented two films this week that coincidentally both center on older men and fractured relationships with their grown sons. Why do so many men and their fathers have such stormy relationships? Is it a testosterone thing? Of course it makes for good drama, though I am not sure men go out of their way to see films that remind them that their machismo gets in the way of a close bond. (We’ll leave the mother-daughter thing for a later time.) Ikiru 生きる, “To Live” (1952), a classic from Kurosawa, deals with a career bureaucrat finding out that he has only 6 months to live, who when he realizes that his own son is not there for him, goes out to find meaning elsewhere. Riding Alone For Thousands of Miles 千里走单骑 (2005) by Zhang Yimou is about a Japanese fisherman finding out that his son who is dying of cancer doesn’t want to see him, so he goes to China to shoot a folk opera his son had planned on filming and ends up getting involved in another father’s and son’s relationship.