Review: Fortune Teller

By Barnett Chow, 2011 Reel Asian Marketing Committee

Director Xu Tong | China 2010 | Mandarin w/English subtitles | Toronto Premiere

While the news publishes stories of the incredible pace of modernization in China, Fortune Teller is a stark and revealing look into the underclass of Chinese society that development has left behind. Filmmaker, Xu Tong, never flinches from showing us just how difficult it is to live in modern China for someone who is old, disabled and earning a living through a practice that is frowned upon by the authorities.

This film follows physically disabled fortune teller, Li Baicheng, and his physically and mentally disabled wife, Pearl, as they try to maintain their dignity in the face of police crackdowns and the cold shoulder by a government-run agency that is supposed to help them. Although the couple have a roof over their head, we are reminded that they are not very far from the streets. A particularly difficult scene shows the couple at Pearl’s family home and revisiting the extremely difficult living conditions she had to endure when she was younger.

The film feels a bit long but Li Baicheng consistently maintains his philosophical outlook on life, compassion and strength to help others who are just as disadvantaged. Fortune Teller is an eye-opening peek at a side of China that I am sure the tourism board would rather you not see; but you should. Li Baicheng is oddly charming and the unique people who surround his life should not be missed.

Fortune Teller will be screening on Thursday, November 10, 8:45 PM at Innis Town Hall.