To commemorate the film series Chinese Realities / Documentary Visions at the Museum of Modern Art(May 8-June 1), each day this month this blog will publish a brief primer on one of the 28 films selected in the series.
When Night Falls (dir. Ying Liang)
Wo hai you hua yao shuo (When Night Falls)
2012. China. Directed by Ying Liang.
MoMA program description:
Through his four narrative features and numerous shorts, Ying Liang utilizes low-budget digital video and observational documentary techniques to produce withering portraits of ordinary Chinese caught in webs of injustice. Inspired by the 2008 case of a young man’s murder of six Shanghai police officers, Ying’s newest feature focuses on the killer’s mother, whose own life is thrown into disarray by both the brutality of the criminal justice system and the netizens who oppose it. Uncommonly attentive to its mostly mute heroine, the film is a quiet plea for humanism amid forces that breed its opposite.
Excerpts from select reviews and writings:
The facts of the case are well known; it’s no spoiler to say that, despite Wang’s efforts, her son was executed, and the scene in which Wang learns this is a quiet masterpiece of imagination. Her gestures—drinking from a teapot, tearing leaves from a calendar—have both a spontaneous nobility and a futile comedy that are as grand and as poignant as a scene from Griffith. “When Night Falls” is a work of memory, reconstruction, and empathy that blends a coolly analytical style with a fierce yet quiet passion. Its precise and intimate scope, its canny sense of refracted representations, turns its lightly idealized modernism into a powerful version of political documentary. No wonder the Chinese government is unhappy with it.
- Richard Brody, The New Yorker
Part of what makes When Night Falls excel as a work of cinema, as well as a political intervention, comes from Ying’s harnessing of isolation and pathos for the express purpose of displaying, through spatial articulation and physical bombardment, what it feels like when the entire apparatus of the Chinese government bears down on a lone individual. Read the rest of this entry »