Odyssey: five festival recommendations

Image for this story

As Odyssey comes to a close, we've decided to highlight five films from the festival's online offering that grabbed our attention, ranging from their Chinese Regional Cinema and Women Through the Lens programmes, to the festival's surprise film. 

The Ark
Dan Wei  2020


Set against the backdrop of the emerging Covid pandemic, filmmaker Dan Wei documents the final days of his grandmother's ultimately terminal battle with illness. Shot almost entirely within the confines of a Chinese hospital, the elderly woman, Zhang Xiuhua, is reduced to not much more than a flaccid object making feral noises and ultimately becomes an emotional and financial chore for relatives and loved ones. The film's fly-on-the-wall approach creates an intimate and at times grueling experience with the monochrome aesthetic adding to the films haunting mood.
Dwelling in the Fuchun Mountains
Gu Xiaogang  2019
Visually and thematically inspired by the masters of restrained cinema, Taiwanese New Wave pioneers Edward Yang and Hou Hsiao-hsien, Dwelling in the Fuchun Mountains tracks the changing fortunes of a family over the course of a year. The English title originally refers to a scroll painting that depicts the beautiful mountains and rivers of Fuchun in Fuyang, and the visual language of the film very much tries to replicate that scroll paint effect with eye catching results. 
A Girl from Hunan
Xie Fei  1986
This landmark piece of Chinese cinema, one of the first films from mainland China to screen commercially in the United States, tells the story of a twelve-year-old girl sold into an arranged marriage with a 2-year-old boy who she must raise until he is old enough to marry her. Although the film takes place in the more primitive times of feudal China, the demands of its central character to conform to tradition and repress their sexual desires still resonates with the battles women have in more modern times. 

The Legend of Sealed Book
Shuchen Wang  1983
The Legend of Sealed Book was announced as the festival's surprise film and is a children's tale bathed in ancient Chinese mythology. Adapted for the big screen from a novel written in the Ming Dynasty, this forgotten gem from the classic Shanghai Animation Film Studio recently received a 4k restoration. The remaster significantly aids the film's visual splendor, enhancing the stunning landscape designs and cartoon characters, while the narrative is an enjoyable entertaining ride. 

Great Happiness
Wang Yiao  2020
In Wang Yi'ao's ironically titled film Great Happiness, money dictates all in China's fast-modernising, capitalist-driven society. Set in the northwest city of Xining, three young men with aspirations of a bright future fear being left behind by the city's ever-changing urbanization and its ultra-competitive entrepreneurial landscape. Told with flourishes of light-hearted humor and a grounded in natural realism by its use of non-professional actors, Great Happiness is a noteworthy feature debut from Wang Yi'ao. 
Read the full story on our website here