For example, Lao Cao runs into A Zhu at a brothel where they are arrested. Lao Cao must use his meager savings to bail out A Zhu and himself. Then he catches a deadly disease and tells A Zhu the truth about her sister's death. He gives A Zhu all the money he has left and tells her to go home.
But she doesn't leave. Hoping to cure Lao Cao, A Zhu agrees to set up her dead sister with another man in an infernal marriage. She collects 10,000 yuan for "trading" her sister, but by the time she returns to the hospital she finds Lao Cao is already dead.
Far from a great tragedy
As the film has no background music and employs a handheld shooting style, it has the look of a documentary. "I visited many crematoriums before shooting the film, and the people I met were in an even more miserable living condition than those depicted in the film," Peng told the Global Times.
"They are used to living with the misery that has befallen them without thinking much about life and death. Maybe this is a characteristic of Chinese people's nature," he added.
While trying to move audiences with his thoughts about Chinese people who live at the bottom of society, others have different views. "The film generally is good, reflecting the director's concern and attitude toward this group of people, but it lacks a multiple perspective," said Tong Xiaofeng, vice professor at the Central Academy of Fine Arts. "People living at the bottom of society also share laughter... To show their bitter life does not rely only on the depiction of their misery, but a more round and 3D display of their characters and life," Tong told the Global Times.
"It is a completely miserable story, but not a great tragedy that can touch hearts and be thought-provoking," Tong added.
Gaining fame as early as 2007, Peng was known in the circle for his first independent film Little Moth which appeared at several international film festivals that year. Another subject about people living at the bottom of the society, Little Moth focused on children who were handicapped and abandoned by their families, and then fell into the hands of bad people who forced them to beg for money on the street.
Not only Peng, but many of China's independent filmmakers choose subjects like this for their films. According to Peng, this is mostly because shooting a film about these subjects saves money since it is basically the reality of the society.
However, another factor that should not be neglected is that these films win at international film festivals, since foreigners want to know more about a fast changing China.
"Actually the current China is much more complicated than the film has reflected, so are the people living in it. It is not a simple definition of good or bad," said Tong.
"Now most Chinese independent films seem to fall into the mistaken idea that only complete display of bottom people's bitterness can reflect their misery and arouse people's attention," said Tong.
Source: Global Times