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THE BLUE KITE

China, 1993 (MIFF 1994)

Director: Tian Zhuangzhuang

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 has always challenged the official cultural line and his new film (which was finished offshore with extensive covert correspondence and style notes from Tian) has initiated a new round of government crackdowns on filmmakers. Already known in the West for his spectacular and controversial film Horse Thief, here Tian creates a work that is epic in scope but intimate in feel. Through the eyes of a young boy, we follow the tribulations of a Beijing family from the 1950s into the nightmare years of the Cultural Revolution. At once melodramatic and strikingly realistic, this coming of age story is set during a period often glorified but too rarely dissected, and watching young Tietou as infant, child and adolescent, we discover political history through the microcosm of the family. Courageous, personal and absorbing, this domestic drama is built of the intimate details of lives caught up in a turmoil of betrayal, loss and endless doubt. In this terrible atmosphere, humanity and love only survive with tenacity and courage.

Though monumental in its visual and historical scope, painstakingly recreated and crafted, it is the human face of Tian's characters - especially Lu Liping as the mother - that makes The Blue Kite soar.

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