One of China’s foremost populist directors, Zhang Yang is known for his ability to comment upon China’s modern social upheavals while never forgetting to tug at the heartstrings. The best example of his humanistic roots was with the universally loved Shower (1999), which proved that independent Chinese films could become breakout hits at home and abroad. His other works, from his debut Spicy Love Soup to the award-winning Quitting and Sunflower, all exemplify his mastery in expressing humour and warmth from even the most harrowing of human adversities.
With his latest film, Getting Home, Zhang once again delivers a tragicomic gem. The story revolves around two poor migrants in their fifties, Zhao and Wang, who have migrated to the boom towns of southern China to try and make a better living for their families back home. The two friends are drinking heavily one day when Wang suddenly falls asleep and never wakes up. Zhao, in keeping with a promise to his now deceased friend, decides to bring Wang’s body back to his family. Despite having no money and a thousand miles to traverse, Zhao decides to carry the corpse on his back, thus beginning an absurd but bittersweet odyssey. Along the way, the odd couple meet a colourful cast of characters who exemplify the spectrum of the Chinese people – good and bad – in a world of rapidly changing values and mores. Unbelievable as it may seem, the plot is actually based on a true story.
Calling upon some of China’s most well-known, this is the most star-studded cast that Zhang has ever led. Lead actor Zhao Benshan, possibly the best-loved comic actor of his generation, has starred in Chen Kaige’s The Emperor and the Assassin and Zhang Yimou’s Happy Times. Actress Song Dandan, as Zhao’s love interest, was most recently in House of Flying Daggers. Hu Jun is a familiar face to Western audiences with his roles in the controversial East Palace, West Palace and Lan Yu, as well as Infernal Affairs II.
Getting Home has already garnered awards and acclaim from festivals worldwide including: Prize of the Ecumenical Jury at the Berlin International Film Festival, Best Film at the Vladivostok International Film Festival, Grand Prize at the Trondheilm Film Festival, Audience Award at the Barcelona Asian Film Festival. Screendaily calls it, “one of the most enjoyable to be shown at the Berlinale this year,” while variety proclaims it, “a feast of acting as well as an on-the-nose portrait of modern Chinese provincial life in all its absurdities.”
– Raymond Phathanavirangoon