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

Director: Cai Chengjie

Winner of the top prize at this year’s Rotterdam film festival, Chinese director Cai Chengjie’s striking debut is a feminist fable of escapist revenge about a wronged woman who rebrands herself as a shaman.

Cai Chengjie’s acclaimed debut, which scooped the Tiger Award at Rotterdam, centres on Erhao, a thrice-widowed woman in rural China who finds herself at the mercy of an unforgiving society and decides to pose as a shaman to exact vengeance on those who have wronged her.

Mixing bold formal choices and oscillating between droll black and white and splashes of fantastical colour, Chengjie’s film explores the superstition and opportunism of a world where empathy is in short supply, and watches as Erhao’s newfound mystical powers wreak havoc on the rural wasteland that has oppressed her.

"Alternating between deadpan social satire and ambiguity-riddled mysticism, this story of a serial widow who turns the superstitious suspicions of her community to her advantage nevertheless permits a clear feminist message through its tangle of styles, genres and even visual textures." – Variety

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