Chinese Filmmakers Are Back in a Big Way at This Year’s Cannes Film Festival

Soi Cheang’s Kowloon Walled City thriller and a new film from Jia Zhangke lead the charge for Chinese cinema at the festival on the French Rivieria

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Simon Frank
4:42 PM HKT, Tue May 21, 2024 1 mins read

After a few years a bit farther from the spotlight than usual, Chinese filmmakers returned to Cannes Film Festival in a big way this year. This year’s edition, which got started on May 14 and runs until Saturday, May 25, features films by directors Jia Zhangke (Caught by the Tides), Peter Chan (She’s Got No Name), Lou Ye (An Unfinished Film), Soi Cheang (Twilight of the Warriors: Walled In), and Guan Hu (Black Dog).

As one of the giants of Chinese cinema, Jia Zhangke’s participation is especially significant. Caught by the Tides is comprised of improvised footage filmed by Jia over almost a quarter century with his regular crew of collaborators. Following a loose narrative in which a woman played by actress Zhao Tao chases her lost lover, the film also inevitably records the enormous changes China has gone through since filming began in 2001. Screening in Cannes’ main competition, the film has been a hit with critics so far, and may well be a strong contender for a prize at the end of the festival.

Screening out of competition in the Midnight Screenings genre sidebar, Soi Cheang’s Twilight of the Warriors: Walled In was met with a rave response, gaining a standing ovation last Thursday. The 1980s-set martial arts thriller takes place in Kowloon Walled City, an extremely densely populated enclave in Hong Kong that was a hotbed for organized crime until it was demolished in the early 1990s. Featuring Hong Kong stars Louis Koo, Sammo Hung, and Raymond Lam, the film has generated major excitement for its frenetic action scenes and how it showcases local history and culture.

Also of note is Peter Chan’s She’s Got No Name, in which megastar Zhang Ziyi plays a housewife accused of the murder of her husband in 1940s Shanghai. The film’s plot is based on a real case, which ignited debates on domestic violence and women’s rights long before these topics were commonly discussed in China.

Beyond potential critical claim, the festival also offers a chance for Chinese films to bought for international distribution at the Marché du Film. Festival prizes will be announced on May 25.

Banner image from Twilight of the Warriors: Walled In, via Festival de Cannes.

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