in death, Chinese citizens remain victims of the Cultural Revolution. Since
those dark days, burial has been illegal in the PRC, banned due to its
religious connotations. As a result, entire generations have been consigned to
an eternal fate as disquiet ghosts, at least according to traditional beliefs. The
tragic connection between intrusive government funerary policy and a young
migrant worker will be revealed in Fabianny Deschamps experimental hybrid New Territories (clip here), which screens
during the 2014 Montreal World Film Festival.
Kong’s New Territories represent the Promised Land for Li Yu. It is there she
is to meet her fiancée, after the human traffickers smuggle them across the
border. However, her fate will somehow become entangled with Eve, a French sales
executive pitching alkaline hydrolysis to the Chinese authorities as a carbon neutral
alternative to cremation. She had traveled to Li’s home province, because of
its high rate of compliance with the government’s cremation mandate.
Understandably, she chose to seal the deal in Hong Kong, where she can
celebrate in style once the business is done.
audience does not see much of Li, for reasons that will eventually be revealed.
However, she is omnipresent as the film’s narrator. Eschewing conventional
dialogue and narrative forms, Territories
is somewhat akin to João Pedro Rodrigues & João Rui Guerra da Mata’s The Last Time I Saw Macao, except the
execution is far superior. In all honesty, this might be the most emotionally
resonant pseudo-experimental film you will see in a month of non-narrative
course, there is very definitely a story underpinning Territories, which even takes on genre dimensions. Though rarely
seen, Yilin Yang’s voiceovers as Li are absolutely devastating. Eve Bitoun
deliberately portrays her namesake as something of a cipher, but her descent
into spiritual oblivion is quite compelling (while her Fifty Shades scene is unnecessarily off-putting). Deschamps also
gives viewers a unique perspective on time-honored practices, such as the
burning of spirit money.
It is difficult to identify the right audience
for New Territories, because it
demands receptiveness to avant-garde forms, yet is still deeply rooted in the
social and historical iniquities of Communist China. Although it is largely set
in HK’s financial district and takes its name from the peninsular region, the
guts of the film concern realties on the Mainland. Cinematographer Tomasso
Fiorilli perfectly lenses HK, in all its alluring menace. It is a very
thoughtful, artful film, highly recommended for the adventurous (and
sufficiently prepared), when it screens this Friday (8/22), Saturday (8/23), and
Sunday (8/24) as part of this year’s MWFF.
Labels: China, Experimental Film, MWFF '14