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Mahjong: New Independent Chinese Cinema

Saturday, November 8, 2008
6:30 p.m. Oxhide
Liu Jiayin (China, 2004)

East Bay Premiere

(Niupi). “Domestic Cinemascope” is but one genre we could invent to describe Liu Jiayin’s remarkably original debut film, a homeland-insecurities epic that is shot entirely in the Liu family home and that comprises exactly twenty-three fixed-angle shots (one for every year of the young filmmaker’s life). Jiayin’s father makes and sells leather bags out of the “oxhides” of the title, his profit margins heading south as buyers seek the best deal, not the best craftsmanship. Wife Jia Huifen and tomboyish daughter Jiayin offer no end of critique and retort, with debates even expanding in their sleep. This is nonfiction, but it’s also unmistakably art. Filming every verbal throw-down and dining-room feud in widescreen black-and-white, with a camera attached to the floor or a nearby chair, Liu Jiayin constructs both a brutally honest dissection of urban Chinese life and one of the most universal portraits of home life ever seen. No matter the language or setting, familial battles are painfully familiar.

—Jason Sanders

• Written, Photographed by Liu. With Liu Jiayin, Jia Huifen, Liu Zaipeng. (110 mins, In Mandarin with English subtitles, Color, DigiBeta, From MK2)