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China / Japan, 2004 (MIFF 2005, Horizons: New Chinese Cinema)

Director: Tian Zhuangzhuang

"The 'Tea Horse Route' is the highest and most perilous of China's ancient trading routes, originating in western Yunnan, ascending the Tibetan plateau, winding through the Himalayas into Nepal, Bhutan and India. Tea was carried along this route by pack-mules for more than two millennia, and mule-packers still negotiate the narrow dirt-tracks and impossible mountain passes - nowadays, though, carrying construction materials for the coming road which is going to obliterate traditional ways of life in the region. "Armed with high-definition cameras, Tian Zhuangzhuang (MIFF 03 guest) set out to document the origins of this route. The images of the region's topography are as spectacular as you'd expect from the director of Horse Thief... but Tian is, of course, more interested in the people than the place. He pauses to record interviews with those he meets along the way: a Christian pastor from the Lisu tribe, a 104-year-old woman who's outliving her own bad memories, a young, bigamous Tibetan, and the owner of Delamu, a hardy mule whose name means 'Angel of Peace' in Tibetan. Fascinating beyond words." - Tony Rayns, London Film Festival
D/S Tian Zhuangzhuang P Takahiro Hamano, Yang Zhao WS Fortissimo Films L Chinese w/English subtitles TD 35mm/col/2004/110mins Tian Zhuangzhuang was born in Beijing, China in 1952. His films include [The Horse Thief] (1986), [The Blue Kite] (1993), [Springtime in a Small Town] (MIFF 2003).

See also...


A rival to Jung Chang's Wild Swans as the most moving and convincing account of the realities of life under Mao's regime, The Blue Kite remains banned and unseen in China. Tian Zhuangzhuang's work ... More »


From Tian Zhuangzhuang, the director of Horse Thief, comes this unique re-telling of the long reign of Tz'u-hsi, the Empress Dowager of turn-of-the-century China, as seen through the memory of Li ... More »


The World is the first film of Jia Zhang-ke - MIFF filmmaker in focus - made with the tacit approval of the authorities. It is also his first film to be released in China. The World is set in World ... More »


"Let's take this opportunity to spar a little." ... In his spectacular [Kung Fu Hustle], Stephen Chow delivers a brilliant and rambunctious homage to the masters of the genre, the Shaw brothers, and ... More »


Festival guest Jia Zhang-ke arrived onto the international cinema scene with Pickpocket (1997), influenced most evidently by the work of Robert Bresson. Made well outside the state system, the film ... More »

KEKexili: mountain patrol

In the sprawling mountain reserve of Kekexili, western China, a volunteer mountain patrol forms to track down a band of illegal wildlife poachers - by any means necessary. Led by the enigmatic ... More »

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