China / Italy, 1999 (MIFF 2000, Regional Focus)
Director: Zhang Yuan
Winner of the Best Director award at the Venice Film Festival last year, Seventeen Years is a potent examination of a dysfunctional family and how human feelings can come back to life when on the verge of collapse.
Seventeen years after accidentally murdering her stepsister, Liu Li is allowed out on parole to visit her family. Escorted by a prison guard, after no one arrives at the prison to pick her up, Liu finds her old home demolished. Later that night, Liu eventually traces her mother and stepfather to their new home. What ensues is a painful homecoming.
Distinguished by the fact that this was the first production permitted to film within the walls of a Chinese prison, Seventeen Years' emotional believability resonates. Yuan's tenacity, in eliciting exceptional performances from his cast, his talent and emotional honesty are readily apparent in this harrowing examination of family ties. Superb cinema.