China, 2018 (MIFF 2018, New Voices from China)

Director: Mingming Yang

In her first feature, emerging Chinese talent Yang Mingming writes, directs, edits and serves up a powerhouse performance in this involving account of a mother and daughter’s lives in a Beijing hutong.

Drawing upon her own time growing up in the city’s cramped neighbourhoods, Yang spins an intimate yet universal story about 20-something screenwriter Wu, her struggling single mum (Nai An, MIFF 2016’s Old Stone), and their volatile relationship. Theirs is a bond filled with incessant bickering – over Wu’s life choices, their desolate finances and past mistakes – with neither woman willing to see how similar they really are.

As words are slung, sarcastic barbs spat and emotions run hot, Girls Always Happy layers its naturalistic psychological portrait over a sharp snapshot of China’s current economic divides, winning the Hong Kong International Film Festival Golden Firebird Award for best debut film as well as the festival’s FIPRESCI Critics Prize for its efforts.

"Almost resembles China’s answer to Lady Bird ... unflinching in its exploration of a difficult parent-child dynamic, and benefitting from intricate performances from the two leads." – Screen Daily

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