sailor is never particularly comfortable on land, even under the best
circumstances. As a result, they are decidedly unsuited to dealing with
system-rigging gangsters, or at least such was the case for one boy's father in the hybrid short film A
Grand Canal (trailer
screens during the 2013 Columbia University Film Festival, an annual showcase
for Columbia MFA students’ thesis films and screenplays.
The narrator tells us his father resembled and sounded like Chinese pop
singer Liu Huan. Singing Liu’s signature
tunes was one of the captain’s few pleasures that did not involve navigating
the rivers and canals near their provincial port town. Largely an absentee father, his young son
still idolizes him. Unfortunately, when
the local “boss” refuses to pay an invoice, it jeopardizes his father’s small
of the biggest surprises of Canal is
the way it becomes a meditation on the healing potential of art (especially cinema).
Ma frequently upends audience expectations, playing ironic games with the
flashback structure. Yet, it never feels
showy or excessively hipsterish. In
fact, it is quite touching, in good measure due to a remarkable lead performance
from Mei Song Shun, who delivers dignity and gravitas in spades. He can also sing.
is set some twenty or so years in the past, its story remains quite timely
as China struggles with increasingly predatory manifestations of
crony-capitalism (within an avowed socialist system, which is quite the
trick). It is quite an impressive
looking production and a completely absorbing film. Highly recommended, A Grand Canal will doubtlessly intrigue China watchers but also
resonate as a paternal drama. It screens
tomorrow (5/4) at the Walter Reade Theater as part of Program C at this year’s Columbia University Film Festival. Southern Californians should also note
details on the 2013 Los Angeles edition of the fest will be announced shortly.
Labels: Chinese Cinema, CUFF '13, Short Films