|A scene from Postcards from the Zoo, directed by Chinese-Indonesian Edwin (Photo: Courtesy of douban.com)|
Though sanctions on creativity and free exhibition in China's film industry continue to hinder the flow of new talent, last year did not stop China's most original independent auteurs from proving their salt in 2012. Many films that made year-end must-see lists were grown right here in China. Here are Metro Beijing's picks of independent cinema of the last year, now available online, from China and beyond.
Egg and Stone, directed by Huang Ji (China)
In this drama, 14-year-old Honggui lives reluctantly with her uncle and aunt in the countryside as the unwanted daughter of her biological parents.
This film is essential viewing for anyone seeking to better understand gender politics in modern China.
Emperor Visits the Hell, directed by Li Luo (China)
Chinese-Canadian Li Luo's adaptation of the novel Journey to the West tells the story of the death of Emperor Li Shimin through the interactions of modern Chinese officials, bureaucrats and gangsters. After having the Dragon King executed, Li Shimin lies on his deathbed, haunted by dreams conveyed throughout the film in several versions of reality.
The Hunter and the Skeleton, directed by Gentsu Gyatso (China)
In this animated version of an Eastern Tibetan folk tale, a hunter encounters a monstrous, reanimated skeleton and the pair embark on what becomes a strange and unexpected relationship.
Chinese big-screen animation in 2013 looks set to undergo major changes, bringing to it ever more up-to-date. Independent efforts at it, such as The Hunter and the Skeleton, deserve equal attention.
Judge Archer, directed by Xu Haofeng (China)
Judge Archer, the title character of in Xu Haofeng's art house kung fu film, is tasked with settling conflicts between schools of martial arts, each one loyal to a different warlord. The judge must therefore exercise the utmost tact and readiness to combat double-crossers. This stylish and romantic film is well worth checking out.
When Night Falls, directed by Ying Liang (China)
When Night Falls tells the true story of a murderer of six Shanghai policemen who, having sought revenge for their beatings after riding an unlicensed bicycle, is once again dragged through the Chinese justice system. The film premiered recently at the Jeonju International Film Festival in South Korea and has courted some interesting controversy after Shanghai police demanded to buy the rights of the film from Ying's family.
Postcards from the Zoo, directed by Edwin (Indonesia)
Written and directed by Edwin, a Chinese-Indonesian who goes by just one name, Postcards from the Zoo tells the story of Lana, an Indonesian girl abandoned at a zoo at age 3. Lana is raised by a giraffe trainer and does not know of a world outside the zoo until a magician enters her life, placing Lana under love's spell and making her finally ready to leave her wild home.
The film was listed at the 2011 Berlinale festival and will enchant those who enjoyed the magical realism of Ang Lee's adaptation of Life of Pi.
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