People Mountain People Sea

In Cai Shangjun‘s 2011 People Mountain People Sea (Ren Shan Ren Hai), a man returns to his modern-day mountainous hometown in order to exact vengeance on his younger brother’s murderer. Took home the Silver Lion for Best Director at this year’s Venice film festival. Read more details down below (via TIFF):

“Inspired by a true crime story, Cai Shangjun’s second feature is a bold and unsettling revenge film that takes a road trip down the dark corners of modern Chinese society.

As if scavenging with his camera through the moral debris of China’s recent, uncontrolled economic growth, Cai has unearthed images and stories of devastating power, laying the foundations for a new Chinese neorealism that has Rossellini as its putative father, but is rooted in the heritage of a contemporary China to which Westerners are rarely afforded a glimpse.

Old Iron (Chen Jianbin), a poor labourer living in a village in the southern province of Guizhou, is struggling to pay a large settlement after injuring someone while rock mining. He’s hit with further tragedy when his brother, a motorcycle courier, is robbed and killed. Devastated, Old Iron decides to go on the road to hunt down his brother’s murderer.

Riding an old motorcycle, Old Iron returns to Chongqing, a city where he once lived and worked. There he recruits the help of his friend Brother Leopard (Wu Xiubo), a drug dealer. Soon in trouble with both the underworld and the law, Old Iron accepts that his world is rife with corruption, and that nothing can be done without influence.

Cai’s unflinching direction is dedicated not only to eliciting solid performances from the cast, but to drawing something memorable and incisive from every aspect of the film. In the haunting music score and the chiaroscuro photography — which seems to illuminate the inner landscapes of the protagonists — we recognise Cai’s signature, that of a great sculptor of stories and images.”

Trailer embedded down below for your viewing pleasure:

People Mountain People Sea (Ren Shan Ren Hai)