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Taking Father Home, April 22

49th San Francisco International Film Festival at PFA

Saturday, April 22, 2006
1:30 p.m. Taking Father Home
Ying Liang (China, 2005)

(Bei ya zi de nan hai). Against his mother's wishes, teenager Xu Yun sets off from their village for the big city to look for the father who abandoned them years ago and who is rumored to have made a fortune and a new life. Traveling with no money and only two ducks to his name, Xu Yun encounters the harsh reality of urban life in China today—petty thieves, youth gangs, swindlers, and indifferent policemen. Despite these setbacks and his naiveté, Xu Yun moves towards the final confrontation with a father who turns out to be not quite as legend would have it. Director Ying Liang's talent lies in his understanding of the larger frame of society distilled into his intimate, detailed portrayal of the common man. As in his short films, Ying's first feature focuses on the issues and way of life in his home province of Sichuan—summer floods, the vanishing way of life, and the deepening division between country and city as China's economic development rushes headlong into a future marked by corruption, fragmented family life, and a brutally predatory business style. Ying's skill is evident in packaging all of this into an indie production that is both social drama and pungent dark comedy. Xu Yun has an innocence, honesty, and humor—a truth that enables him to survive in a jungle of lies and greed. Ying identifies with Xu Yun's point of view: "I think the story is about growing up, seeking, missing, faith, development, calamity and revival." As Ying Liang shows us, it's also a good approach to filmmaking.

—Roger Garcia

• Written by Ying, Peng Shan. Photographed by Li Rongsheng, Ying. With Xu Yun, Liu Xiaopei, Wang Jie, Song Cijun. (100 mins)