To the average Chinese peasant, foreigners have long been “devils”—potentially dangerous outsiders who arrive with dubious motives and nefarious intent. That was especially true of the Japanese soldiers who invaded China in the 1930s. Despite having to give a percentage of the grain harvest to the Japanese, Ma Dasan and his neighbors in a small northern Chinese village coexist with them peacefully—until the night two prisoners are dumped on Ma Dasan’s doorstep, one a Japanese soldier, the other a Chinese collaborator. Director Jiang Wen, the most famous actor of his generation thanks to the TV series A Beijinger in New York, brings great emotional weight to the role of Ma Dasan. Courtesy Fortissimo Films.
This beautifully photographed film—one of several in this exhibition photographed by Doyle— illustrates Pen-Ek Ratanaruang’s profound understanding of the aimless spirit and cautious dreams of Asia’s youth. The fortunes of Kenji, a suicide-obsessed Japanese man living in Bangkok, take a turn for the worse when he accidentally kills a Yakuza gang member. That same night, Noi, a Thai barmaid in the burnt- out beach town of Pattaya, accidentally kills her sister. Thrown together by this common twist of fate, Kenji and Noi find their lives inextricably linked as they hide out together, hoping to find love and redemption. Courtesy Palm Pictures.
Beijing Bastards, regarded as China’s first independent film, has been officially banned, widely boycotted, and constantly hunted down. Zhang Yuan, a leading figure of China’s so-called Sixth Generation Filmmakers, bravely took on the taboo subject of Beijing’s disaffected youth, brilliantly combining reality and fantasy in the tale of a rock idol who attempts to organize a concert and is prevented from doing so, and a young woman whose failed suicide attempt brings her into contact with different cultures within and on the edges of the city and society. Courtesy Fortissimo Films.