Shui shang ren jia
China, 2008, 88 minutes
Sun, May 3 / 6:45 / Kabuki / RIVE03K
Tue, May 5 / 4:00 / Kabuki / RIVE05K
Thu, May 7 / 5:30 / Kabuki / RIVE07K
An extended family in Shanxi province follows a rhythmic cycle, established over generations. They live on boats and fish in the river until it ices over, then set up on land and run a restaurant during the long winter. Teenager Laba and his cousin Baowa would much rather bait lines and collect fish than study for school, yet Baowa worries over the intimations of a future as bleak as the river is muddy. He gravitates toward the trains he can hear in the distance but which he’s never had an opportunity to ride toward what he imagines must be better work in the city, but Baowa’s father has seen what life outside portends for his family and forbids his son to leave. Director He Jianjun, like his peers in the Sixth Generation such as Zhang Yuan and Jia Zhangke, shares an abiding interest in combining (or blurring) fiction and reality. He films the family—who seem to be playing approximations of themselves—in an observational style that reveals rather than structures the characters. He imbues the humble settings with a feeling of comfort and familiarity, but beyond the dark interiors of the boats that the fisherfolk call home is a creeping sense of foreboding. Equally threatening to the cultural lineage of the family is the encroachment of modernity, symbolized by the unceasing drone of DVD action movies and motorbikes.
In Chinese with English subtitles. North American Premiere.