If college football isn’t your thing and you can’t find anything to watch on Netflix but you really don’t want to leave the house because of the shopping crowds, here are a few Chinese films and videos that are available free online or with a Netflix account to entertain you this long holiday weekend:
Last Train Home (归途列车 / 歸途列車) – While the Thanksgiving holiday is the busiest travel season in the United States with over 40 million travelers in 2011, it is dwarfed by the 700 million who traveled the same year during China’s Spring Festival and the 230 million during peak periods. For 130 million migrant workers are part of this single largest human migration event, it is the only time they are able to return to their hometowns to see their families. This 2010 documentary by Fan Lixin (范立欣 / 範立欣) follows a couple from Sichuan who work in Guangzhou and their rebellious teenage daughter to reveal how this arrangement has fractured their family and one aspect of Chinese society.
PBS puts migrant workers historical, social, and economic context and provides an interview with Fan.
Web Junkie – China is the first country to deem internet addiction a clinical disorder and has established 400 treatment centers to address this public health concern. The film visits one such rehab center just outside of Beijing that treats teenagers.
Full film from the BBC:
Searching for Sacred Mountain – From Gary Marcuse and Shi Lihong (Waking the Green Tiger), a 20-minute version of a film about “Green Tibetan Buddhism”. When investigative journalist Liu Jianqiang becomes a Tibetan Buddhist, his friend and filmmaker Shi Lihong heads for the Tibetan territory to find out why an environmental activists switched from atheism to Buddhism. What she discovers are the vast ecological reserves created by the Tibetans hundreds of years ago. (Waking the Green Tiger: A Green Movement Rises in China Facebook page)
Shi Lihong discusses the environmental movement in China with Orville Schell when Waking the Green Tiger was screened at Asia Society this summer:
In Finding Mr. Right (北京遇上西雅图 / 北京遇上西雅圖), Xue Xiaolu’s (薛晓璐 /薛曉璐) Chinese blockbuster rom-com that led to a surge in tourism to and property investment in Seattle, Wen Jiajia (Tang Wei (汤唯 / 湯唯)) a pregnant mistress of a Chinese tycoon, comes to Seattle (out of love for Sleepless in Seattle) to have the baby away from scrutiny in China. She is bratty and abusive, but she is humbled when her financial support is cut off. She learns about life, love, and parenthood as she falls for her driver, Frank (Wu Xiubo (吴秀波 / 吳秀波)).
Reviews from The Hollywood Reporter and The Los Angeles Times.
For those of you with a Netflix account:
The Raw and the Cooked – Following fifteen trips to Taiwan and two films about Taiwanese women, German filmmaker Monika Treut looks beyond the well-explored night markets of Taipei to discover the diverse culinary traditions of Taiwan in this documentary. Beginning with Taipei hotspots Shin Yeh (欣葉) and Din Tai Fung (鼎泰豐 / 鼎泰丰), she highlights Buddhist, Hakka, and aboriginal customs and local ingredients as she circles the island from Hualien (花蓮 / 花莲), Shitiping (石梯坪), Taitung (台東 / 台东) on the east coast to Kaohsiung (高雄) in the far south, back up to Hsinpu (新埔), then to Puli (埔里) in the center of the island. More info and recipes from the film’s press release.
Here’s an interview with Treut when the film was screened at the San Diego Asian Film Festival.
Reviews from Vancouver’s straight.com and Variety.
Jia Zhangke’s (贾樟柯 / 賈樟柯) A Touch of Sin (天注定) retells four events from headlines in China that offer glimpses into a darker side to contemporary Chinese society.
- Hu Wenhai (胡文海), a Shanxi vigilante who murdered 14 people in 2001 in the name of fighting corruption
- Zhou Kehua (周克华 /周克華), a criminal suspected to have killed ten people and robbed millions between 2004 and 2012.
- Deng Yujiao incident (邓玉娇事件 / 鄧玉嬌事件) – A female pedicurist who was arrested in 2009 for murdering a customer who tried to sexually assault her
- Foxconn (富士康) suicides – Worker suicides at Foxconn factories which manufacture products for international electronic behemoths like Apple drew international attention
The film was nominated for the Palme d’Or at the 2013 Cannes Film Festival, and Jia won the award for Best Screenplay.
If you’re interested in current affairs, take a look at our recap and Asia Society’s videos of New Yorker correspondent Evan Osnos’ talk with Asia Society’s Orville Schell about his book Age of Ambition: Chasing Fortune, Truth, and Faith in New China which just recently won the National Book Award for nonfiction. The National Book Foundation interviewed Osnos following his win.
He also spoke at Politics and Prose bookstore in Washington, D.C.:
Some of you may have read our recap of Guo Xiaolu’s (郭小橹 / 郭小櫓) appearances at Asia Society New York and the Ace Hotel for Pen America to talk about her experiences as a writer and filmmaker and her book I Am China, a quasi-autobiographical novel about two separated lovers trying to make sense of cultural and national identities. She continued the discussion at Asia Society Texas Center:
Finally, for something completely absurd and entertaining, “Chick Chick” (小雞小雞) by Wang Rong (王蓉) is like a Chinese mash-up of PSY’s “Gangnam Style” and Ylvis’ “The Fox (What Does The Fox Say?)”. As one of the weirdest things we’ve seen recently, it might be good to watch after watching some of the heavier offerings above like Last Train Home, Web Junkie, and A Touch of Sin.
Image: Hyena Films