The Canada China International Film Festival made its debut with a splash. It was a jam-packed weekend of films, technology summits, and media conferences. Tech nerds had a chance to play around at the Augmented Reality exhibit. During the festival’s opening gala, there was a 3D-printer chugging away. It demonstrated what technology allows us to create these days, such as textured bracelets and miniature models.
Aside from the new media technologies and a collection of films celebrating the long-time link between Canada and China, the CCIFF also featured musical performances before some of the screenings. A youth band played a lively cover of Twist and Shout on Saturday, and a 20-piece classical Chinese ensemble performed on Sunday with traditional instruments such as Pipa, Erhu and Gu Zheng.
As far as the selection of films go, there was a bit of everything for everyone – from animation to documentaries.
Director Zhang Yimou’s Coming Home features his one-time muse, Gong Li. The splendor of her youth is quite alarmingly disguised, as she gives a stunning performance as an aging woman who develops a case of Psychogenic Amnesia. Her family spends most of the story trying to jog her memory while she loses more and more of what she once held dear. It is a sad but heartwarming tale that brought a few sniffles to the festival audience.
The scenery is a bit more everyday than most of Zhang Yimou’s older works. However, his signature bursts of red and shots of Chinese architecture are still at play.
Melancholy and the touching nature of human relationships were a common thread in many of the CCIFF’s programme. This theme was also present in The Lead Singer, and Dancer and His Woman (Niu Jianrong). It is a tale about tragic love and compound families. In a community that loves Yangko, Deren makes a name for himself. Yangko is a folk song and dance street performance. Though the story is very sweet, many of the scenes end in a cinematographic ‘lazy’ way. The frequent fades to black make it seem like TV episodes rather than a feature film. Another drawback was that for audiences who cannot read Chinese, a very pertinent piece of the plot remains a mystery. A letter onscreen refers to Deren’s wife’s fatal illness. Sadly, the subtitling team omitted the English translation.
Even with this technicality, the film has its charm.
Further on the theme of bittersweet melancholy, were two shorts, Frank and Suzie, and Home, Swim Home.
Frank and Suzie demonstrates the isolation of marginalized people. Both Frank and Suzie have what society would deem a Disability. Through their respective craft, their lives cross paths and end in a positive but subtle romance.
Perhaps referring to the concept that people with a sensory impairment have other senses which are heightened, director Luke Hwong creates a sensuous world of rhythm and touch; a tango of high heeled shoes, fingers touching skin, a measuring tape encircling a bare waist. It is a lyrical love story wherein the lead characters use a bridged lingua franca. They cannot speak each others’ language, yet find their own way to communicate.
Home, Swim Home (Wang Yiyu) is another take on the human condition and communication. Eight-year old Ke Rou is adopted. Her parents haven’t told her. She uses apps to check who her real parents might be. She drinks wine perhaps to feel closer to her drunken father.
“Your mom is a swim coach, so why can’t you swim?” a boy in her swimming class taunts.
Ke Rou is having a major identity crisis, largely in part to her parents’ inability to communicate the truth she has already figured out. She’s a cute kid with a lot going on in her head. She has relatively likeable parents who are as incapable of expressing themselves – this trait they share with their adopted child.
Selective blurring makes Home, Swim Home aesthetically pleasing. The effect highlights the main action or characters in a scene. It is nominated for the CCIFF’s Best Short Film.
Home, Swim Home Official Trailer
The Awards ceremony will be held on Monday, September 19th 2016 at the J.A. De Seve Theatre (1400 Blvd. De Maisonneuve)