Warm-hearted, personal and engaging…
It is in the ordinary that you find magic and this documentary certainly cast a spell on me. Covering four chronological years in Dushan a provincial town in Southern Guizhou, we follow the life of the director’s family, through four Spring festivals.
You can’t help but warm to this family. The camera looks at them with a purely loving gaze and uncritical glimpses into their daily life and familial relationships. The small minutia which make up the day – be it chopping vegetables or jogging round the courtyard – resonates with the viewer’s own daily life. They tease their son for always sneaking around filming things, but play to the camera, the fourth wall breaking regularly and including you in the laughter. His parents love music, singing lines from local operas and traditional songs, playing the erhu together, an easy soundtrack for the film along with other ambient sounds of housework, fireworks, birds and nature when they go on long walks. The music sung reflects the harmony between the couple after all the years of marriage, Lu himself has said he does not remember any arguments or disputes growing up.
This is Lu’s first feature, born out of diary he made of his father one spring that grew in popularity online. As an artist and photographer, he has a good eye for the cinematography and, as a filmmaker, a good sense of timing and selection that keeps you watching, even though there is no overarching story happening. It is a very personal film despite his role as an observer, a role that came naturally having spent so long away from home. It is this distance that has enabled him to capture traditions and those small meaningful moments as well as edit the footage from 250 hours down to 105 minutes, a feat that earned him a nomination for Best Film editing at the Taipei Golden Horse Film Festival.
It is not just Lu that is technologically adept at constructing this story. His father is visually creative too, having made films at other Spring festivals in the 90s. These, focusing on family, are included in the latter more bleak half of the film when thoughts have to turn to happier times to cope with the sad events. It is not nostalgic in an overly saccharine way, but more with a sense of appreciation for what has gone before.
Low budget films are on the rise now in China as audiences start to appreciate quality over blockbusters and with limited screen time for any of the multitude of films being produced it is a well-deserved achievement for it to have gained countrywide release and garnered support and popularity. I hope it continues to have success Internationally.