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FAMILY PORTRAIT

China, 1992 (MIFF 1993, Youth Film Festival)

Director: Li Shaohong

Family Portrait, the latest film from Li Shaohong (whose previous film, Bloody Morning, was suppressed for three years), is a fascinating look at life in post-Tiananmen Beijing.

The plot seems quintessentially Chinese: urban photographer, Cao Depei, discovers that his first wife — a peasant he married when he was sent to the country during the Maoist period — has died, leaving behind a young son, Xiaomu, he never knew he had. Although he tries to deny it, he must finally come to terms with the fact that the boy is his. A series of poignant scenes ensue, in which he first tries to conceal the facts, and then must try to explain things to his second wife, Duan, and child, Hanhan. When his 'new' son moves into their home, sibling rivalry takes hold and family life goes awry. In the struggle of loyalties and feelings between the public and the personal, this emotionally sophisticated yet politically tough-minded scenario is played out.

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