Don’t be fooled by his adorable smile and luminous eyes: four-year-old Qiang is a veritable Tazmanian Devil, a miniature rebel truly without a pause. Sent by his father to a well-respected post-1949 Beijing kindergarten, he at first reacts well to his seemingly sympathetic teachers and friendly classmates. But the cheeky Qiang is not one to fall in line easily. The more strict the rules and routines of the kindergarten become, the more he asserts his wickedly fierce independence. Soon, he is scheming and plotting to “overthrow” the status quo! But all the while, he still covets that very status symbol of obedience – the little red flowers — given to those students who behave.
Winner of the C.I.C.A.E Prize at the Berlin Film Festival and Best Direction at the Alba Film Festival, Little Red Flowers may be a film about children, but is certainly not aimed at children. Instead, this social satire is steeped in allegory, illuminating the extreme pressures of having to “fit” into the regimented confines of socialist rule. And the talents behind Little Red Flowers certainly have struggled against these restrictions, from the acclaimed source novelist Wang Shuo (whom Chinese authorities dubbed a “spiritual pollutant”) to the director himself, acclaimed for bucking social mores with provocative works such as Beijing Bastards and the gay-themed East Palace, West Palace.
Regardless of its political implications, Little Red Flowers is an immensely endearing film anchored by utterly superb performances from each and every one of the tots, especially the devilishly charming main actor, Dong Bowen.
Zhang Yuan was born in Jiangsu, China in 1963. As a leading light within the “6th-generation” of directors, he is one of the first truly independent underground filmmakers from China. He achieved acclaim with his first feature, Mama (1990), before going on to win Special Mention at the Locarno Film Festival for 1992’s Beijing Bastards and Best Director at the Venice Film Festival for 1999’s Seventeen Years.