Chinese Indie Feature Wins Top Prize at Locarno

Li Hongqi, winner of the Golden Leopard for Winter Vacation (Photo: Locarno Film Festival)

by Isabella Tianzi Cai

34-year-old Chinese director Li Hongqi’s feature, Winter Vacation, won the Golden Leopard Award at the 63rd Locarno Film Festival on Saturday, August 14, 2010. It is the second time in Locarno’s award history that one country has won the top prize for two consecutive years. In 2009, the award was given to She, a Chinese by another Chinese director Guo Xiaolu.

Winter Vacation tells a coming-of-age story set in a small town of Inner Mongolia in Northern China. The story centers around four youths and it takes place on the last day of their winter vacation. The youths’ general lack of purpose in life is captured in scanty dialogue and “long shots with little editing for stretches of several minutes” (GenevaLunch). As specified by Brian Brooks in indieWire,

“Their conversations are desultory and they sometimes seem to argue for argument’s sake. One of them, Laowu, talks frankly with his girlfriend about how teenage love might affect their studies, while Laobao questions school’s value and relevance to real life.”

Both thematically and stylistically speaking, Winter Vacation resembles dGenerate’s Fujian Blue and Betelnut. Though the stories take place in different parts of China, they share quite some common sentiments of Chinese youths today.

Trivia: The jury of the festival this year included Singapore filmmaker Eric Khoo, whose film My Magic was nominated for the Golden Palm award at Cannes in 2008.

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