Still Life Review

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Citizens return to the town of Fengjie, flooded to accomodate China's Three Gorges Dam, to take stock and remember the place they once called home.


The price of progress is laid bare in Jia Zhang Ke’s study of the destruction of the town of Fengjie to make way for the massive Three Gorges Dam.

The winner of the Golden Lion at Venice, this is as much a record of an unsought twilight as a narrative drama, with miner Han Sanming’s search for the wife and daughter he’s not seen for 16 years and nurse Zhao Tao’s pursuit of her AWOL husband sideshows to the demolition sanctioned by a government that values economic expansion over any human consequences.

The despondent tone is reinforced by Yu Lik Wai’s wistful visuals, but there are still amusing moments, such as the unexplained launch of a CG spaceship behind the mountainous horizon.

The despondent tone is lifted by moments of hope and, surprisingly, hilarity.