If all the world’s a stage, then resorting to just that when faced with a shoestring movie production budget may be just the cure. Immensely resourceful and inspired Chinese filmmaker Ying Liang has crafted his debut feature, Taking Father Home [Bei Yazi De Nanhai], with the both eloquently whimsical and melancholy sights and sounds of a China in radical and often brutal new market economy transition. And to set further limits on this no budget delightfully heartfelt yet solemn road movie to nowhere, family and friends were recruited to fill in as the cast and crew.
Xu Yun (Xu Yun) is a brooding and rebellious seventeen year old country boy who departs from Rice Village to the metropolis of Zigong, seeking the father that abandoned his family six years ago to pursue get rich quick schemes in the big city. Xu has few clues to follow since his father hasn’t been heard from, just an old address at the ironically named Happiness Hotel. At the same time, Xu’s village is threatened with imminent destruction by a pending flood, and he may in fact return to find that his village has vanished.
Nevertheless, a determined, pouting and nearly mute Xu heads off on his journey, a scrawny, penniless Chaplinesque figure in shorts and flip-flops with two white ducks in his straw backpack to serve as barter for any necessities along the way. But Xu is unaware that money is the only acceptable urban currency, which leads him to rely on the kindness of questionable strangers. Including a shifty gangster, and a lonely cop who arrests Xu for generally obstinate behavior – that is, refusing to take no for an answer – and who then comes to care for and look after the boy as a surrogate father figure, while trying to drag him on to a bus back home.
We come to understand that Xu eventually symbolizes the inconceivably disintegrating past, as he beholds with a mixture of denial and disgust a ruthlessly materialistic new China that has lost its sense of identity, tradition and community along the way. Xu is simply seeking love and belonging. But all he observes is an increasingly predatory culture of people behaving badly, beating and killing one another over money. This, while buildings and streets and entire shared communities seem to disappear into thin air, as human beings are displaced by commercial development and lose their way in the world.
But there are also moments of touching humor intertwined with these sobering observations, while a nearly wordless Xu alternately searches, wanders and takes flight. And as if eluding an inevitable fate in internal exile in his own land, tied in with voracious economic onslaught. And in a final scene when Xu angrily buries bloody paper money under a tree, the gesture resonates with the bitter revelations of Xu’s tragic life journey.
Taking Father Home
DVD Features: Exclusive Interviews With Director Ling Yiang and Producer Peng Shan; US and International Trailers.
Typecast Films is a distributor & producer of quality independent films that challenge cultural and political assumptions about some of the underrepresented peoples and cultures of the world. They present audiences with films featuring international perspectives and experiences not often explored in modern cinema.