get involved. No good deed goes unpunished. Those seem to be the takeaways from
this unfortunate story, set in the go-go city of Changzhou. The commercial hub
is booming, but many have been left behind. This causes resentments that will
complicate a rather simple everyday tragedy in screenwriter-director-editor Qiu
Yang’s short film Under the Sun (trailer here), which screens
during the 2016 Slamdance Film Festival.
returning home on a late night bus, a teenager sees an elderly woman collapse.
Being a Good Samaritan, he schleps her to the hospital, but as a reward for his
service, the woman’s grown daughter threatens to sue his family, accusing him
of tripping her mother. It seems perversely unfair, because it will jeopardize
the decent kid’s future plans. However, as we learn the daughter’s grim
circumstances, we come to sympathize with her as well. Sadly but inevitably,
tragedy will compound rather dramatically.
from Sun (which shines very little),
Qiu seems to be highly influenced by Tsai Ming-liang, both in terms of aesthetics
and the street-level, socially-informed subject matter, with maybe a pinch of
Ozu sprinkled in. It is a darkly humanistic film that offers empathy for nearly
all its characters. Qiu captures some extreme emotions, but the visual strategy
he and cinematographer Tarun Hansen apply, often framing scenes through
doorways, at oblique angles, is initially somewhat distancing. Yet, it forces
the audience to fill in some blanks during the grimly logical climax.
Whether Qiu’s stylistic approach could be
sustained over a future length film is something we will just have to find out
later. As an eighteen minute film, it is quite impressive. For those who are
willing to work with it, Under the Sun packs
quite a pop. Recommended for everyone interested in independent
Chinese-language cinema, Under the Sun screens
again this Thursday (1/28), as part of Narrative Shorts Block 1 at this year’s
Labels: Chinese Cinema, Short Films, Slamdance '16