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Old Well 18

Wu Tianming, China, 1986, 129m.

Introduced by Chris Berry (KCL).


Considered one of the mentors of Fifth Generation filmmaking in China through his work at the Xi’an Film Studio, in 1986 Wu Tianming was lacking a leading man for his drama of rural modernisation, Old Well. He wanted an actor who resembled his cinematographer, Zhang Yimou, and ultimately realised the easiest course of action would be to offer him the role. In return for Zhang’s double duty, Wu and Xi’an would produce his debut feature, Red Sorghum. A film that would go on to win the Golden Bear at the 1988 Berlin Film Festival, and launch the directorial career of the leading light of Chinese cinema. Notably, the proximity of the releases of both Old Well and Red Sorghum led to Zhang and Wu sharing the Golden Rooster Award for best film in 1988, with Zhang also picking up the best actor award for Old Well.  


Old Well itself resonates with Zhang’s films to come. He plays a university educated engineer who uses his training to find an operational water source for a village that is notorious for digging useless wells. The conflict and cooperation of modernity and agrarian existence, the beauty and harshness of China’s natural landscape, and the attraction of forbidden love, are all themes that Zhang will return to again and again in the films throughout this season. Remarkably this will finally mark the UK premiere of Old Well.    


Cast:
Zhang Yimou, Lü Liping, Niu Xingli

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