REPORT2019.04.21Sunflower Blooms at Sakuraza Theater

The final day of OIMF 11 saw some great films show at the Sakurazaka Theater. Despite the great weather in the afternoon the house was packed for director Zhang Luoping’s Sunflower. This elegiac work is told with a wonderful naturalism while working in the occasional magic realism. It portrays life in a village in the Chinese countryside and presents breathtaking landscapes as well as the realities of the difficult life in the rural areas.

Xiangyuan loses his mom as a very young boy and is forced to live with his grandmother at his uncle’s house. But when he’s 10 grandma passes away he has to move in with his father Hengyuan and his new wife Huijian. The boy is mischievous and wild earning the ire of Huijian, but his happy-go-lucky father loves him and spoils him rather than punishing him. The pair develops an intense bond as they roam the countryside, fishing, walking and running errands. Xiangyuan attends school but is often out with his father, clearly enjoying the relationship he never had before. But Huijian is often angry at both of them for ignoring the needs of the family.

A turning point comes in their lives when a huge storm destroys the mud roof of their house. Hengyuan must throw himself over the boy to protect him. The act changes Huijian attitude, as she realizes the intense love and devotion Hengyuan has for his son. But the destruction of the roof also sends Hengyuan to a faraway settlement to look for work, so he can earn real money and build a sturdy house. The consequences of this decision will change their family.

The film touching portrays the love and bond between father and son, as well as offers the sweeping, stunning landscapes of interior mainland China (it was actually shot in Inner Mongolia). It deftly moves between extremely realistic shots of the family’s tough life and more impressionistic, magical images that a 10-year old boy would experience. Director Zhang Luoping was present after the screening and he told the crowd, “Of course the film depicts the intense affection between father and son but that is not the only thing I wanted to show. I wanted to lay out the different periods in ones life and how things can change at different times.”

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