The Story of Qiu Ju

dir. Zhang Yimou

TIFF Cinematheque - Retrospective

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Zhang Yimou won the Golden Lion at the Venice Film Festival for this neorealist-influenced chronicle of a poor, pregnant village woman (Gong Li) who embarks on a strange odyssey to achieve justice for her abused husband.

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Following a series of lavish and internationally acclaimed historical dramas (Red Sorghum, Ju Dou, Raise the Red Lantern), Zhang Yimou struck out in a radically different direction with this bracing, unforgettable foray into contemporary neorealism, which won the Golden Lion at the Venice Film Festival and confirmed Zhang's muse and then wife Gong Li as one of the world's most gifted film actresses. Gong plays the pregnant wife of a peasant farmer who is badly beaten (complete with a vicious kick to the balls) by the village chief. Against her husband's wishes, Qiu Ju complains to the local policeman, who charges the chief a small fine and asks him to apologize; unrepentant, the chief throws the money at Qiu Ju and stomps off without an apology. The indignant Qiu Ju continues to appeal her husband's case to ever higher authorities in ever bigger cities, until her out-of-control crusade collapses when she goes into labour and receives help from an unexpected source. Providing a fascinating glimpse into China's massive, late-century urban migrations and slowly recalibrating justice system, "The Story of Qiu Ju reaffirms Zhang Yimou's stature as storyteller and sociologist extraordinaire, and as a visual artist of exceptional delicacy and insight (Janet Maslin, The New York Times).