Xiaoshuai Wang / China / 2011 / 120 min / Mandarin, Shanghainese with English subtitles / Color / 35mm
Like his fellow Sixth Generation filmmaker Jia Zhangke, Wang Xiaoshuai (Beijing Bicycle, Shanghai Dreams) has learned much from Taiwanese master Edward Yang, whose work frequently places intimate family stories within a politically charged historical framework. Brimming with youthful energy and featuring lovingly detailed evocations of a specific time and place, 11 Flowers demonstrates Wang’s deep engagement with mainland China’s complex cultural history.
Set in a riverside community in Southwest China in 1975, just before the tumultuous end of the Cultural Revolution, 11 Flowers follows 11-year-old Wang Han as he negotiates the onset of puberty while trying to decipher the anxious whispering of the surrounding adults—of Red Guards clashing with conservatives, and of a killer run loose in the woods. Han’s concerns are typical for someone his age— playing street games with friends, spying on local girls and fussing over school clothes—but things turn more serious after a strange encounter near the river.
Wang imbues each scenario with deep emotional resonance, leading us to understand the financial struggles and geographical displacement of the village’s inhabitants, many of whom were sent away from their native Shanghai. Wang skillfully depicts a culture on the verge of chaos, but he leaves room for the subtler moments too, like a father teaching his son the intricacies of painting, moments that can have a profound impact, despite impending upheaval.
-Jonathan L . Knapp
Co-presenter: Asia Society Northern California (3/11, 3/16)
- Director: Xiaoshuai Wang