Moving over to the 2013 World Cinema Documentary Competition: From China, Qi Zhao’s FALLEN CITY, a meditation on the aftermath of the devastating 2008 Sichuan earthquake.
Sundance Program Description:
The 2008 earthquake in China utterly destroyed not only physical structures but also human lives in mountain cities like Beichuan. Through the gracefully interwoven stories of three survivors from the town, FALLEN CITY documents the struggle to rebuild amidst ruin. Meanwhile, down the road a new Beichuan is rising. The Chinese government’s solution to the devastation of the earthquake is a completely new town where the survivors can live a better, more prosperous life in spacious flats among manicured landscapes.
As the physical structures appear at a breakneck pace, we see that people’s hearts cannot be repaired as easily. First-time director Qi Zhao gives us an intimate look at Chinese life by focusing on the people’s unshakable familial love and commitment—values not seen as often in the West. Through surprising turns, haunting visuals, and the personal and political drive to forget, FALLEN CITY becomes a testimony to the universal human will to persevere and remember.
Zhao previously produced two Sundance alums, LAST TRAIN HOME (2010) and CHINA HEAVYWEIGHT (2012), both directed by Lixin Fan, who takes an executive producer credit here. Also serving as executive producers are Fan’s colleague at Yuanfang Media, Michelle Ho, as well as HEAVYWEIGHT producer Peter Wintonick, best known for MANUFACTURING CONSENT.
Why You Should Watch:
Zhao’s debut was one of the most impressive at its premiere at IDFA this past November, adroitly balancing its three personal profiles with the larger story of a rapidly changing China. Even as Zhao treats his subjects and their mourning with respectful patience, he wryly points out the official party line the government is using to move things to a tidier resolution – a more convenient spin on the situation that underscores the control the government strongly wishes to maintain. Note: I wrote about the film out of IDFA here.
For more information, check out the doc’s ITVS page. For Zhao’s thoughts on the film, check out his Meet the Artists profile for Sundance and his Indiewire interview. For screening dates and times at Sundance, click the link in the first paragraph.