Seventeen Years (过年回家)
Dir Zhang Yuan, China, 2000
Known for his 1993 quasi-documentary Beijing Bastards (charting the capital’s early rock scene) and 1997 queer classic East Palace, West Palace,
Zhang Yuan has long been a leading light in China’s first generation of
indie filmmakers, as well as a perpetual fly in the ointment for the
censors. Seventeen Years, on the other hand, sees the director go 'soft', telling a story of forgiveness.
film begins by travelling back in time with the marriage of two
divorcees, each with a daughter of their own. The children, Xiaolan and
Xiaoqin, constantly squabble, leading to an incident where Xiaolan hits
her stepsister over the head, only for Xiaoqin to collapse and die.
Guilt-ridden, young Xiaolan is sentenced to jail, only to return
seventeen years later (now played by Li Bingbing in her big-screen
debut) on compassionate leave for Chinese New Year and in search of her
parents’ forgiveness. A truly moving piece of cinema.