Emerging Chinese Directors Lead Shanghai Festival’s Asian New Talents Section

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Six first or second-time directors from China take up the majority of the 11 slots in the Shanghai International Film Festival’s Asian New Talents section.

While family drama is the dominant genre, Variety takes a look what they are serving up:

Adapted from the book of the same name, Wang Xinrui’s “Dreaming of Mother and Home” depicts the drama of an adult daughter and her mother who is struggling through the last stages of life.

Zeng Zhi, previously a commercials director, puts the focus of his debut feature “Friday, Funfair” on the struggles of a young woman who was abandoned by her husband and is left to take care of her entire family and her sick only daughter.

Zhang Xuyu has made a series of short films and documentaries – including 2019 documentary short “Mr. Darcy,” was selected for the Brussels Independent Film Festival – before turning to fiction. His Shanghai feature, “Fish Bone” focuses on the stressful relationship between an aggressive mother and her rebellious daughter, who is on the threshold of enrolling in college.

Born and raised in Xinjiang, Lu Dan presents “The Absent,” a story that involves a young woman looking for her father, an accordionist who has long disappeared from home. The film builds a strong connection to the indigenous life of Chinese ethnic groups in the northwest region of China. Adding an additional layer of interest, the film was produced by the late Pema Tseden, the pioneering director-producer who died suddenly last year.

Zang Lianrong and Xu Ruogu’s second collaboration, “The Lost Daughter” is an intense drama that sheds light on the impact of China’s now abolished One Child Policy. One of the policy’s unforeseen side-effects was the skewing of the population towards male children, which are traditionally seen as more valuable. The film tells the story of a mother who seeks out the first-born daughter she previously abandoned in order to try to persuade the daughter to donate bone marrow to her sick younger brother.

Zhang Luoping (2017 title “Sunflower”) returns with “Habitat,” in which a young music teacher, with a child, suspects that her supposedly dead husband may actually still be alive. Her investigations lead her through the squalid suburbs of a Chinese town and expose a world with no mercy for the poor or weak.

Although the Shanghai festival’s website describes the film as a world premiere, “Habitat” appears to be the same picture as one that showed last November at the Tallinn festival and was described as “a suspenseful, atmospheric and eye-catching thriller,” and was reported to have been made in 2021.

After its overseas debut was revealed on the Douban Chinese film fan site, someone claiming to be a producer alleged that the Tallinn screening had gone ahead – without censorship or export approval from the Chinese authorities – and without the rights owner’s approval. The Tallinn festival site clearly states that it obtained the film from the producer Shao Studio Medias.

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