Black Coal, Thin Ice 2014

Bai ri yan huo

Directed by Diao Yinan World

This inventive and atmospheric noir, set in China’s wintry industrial north, finds a hard-bitten former detective resurrecting the cold case that ended his career when an eerily similar new case surfaces years later.

China In Mandarin with English subtitles
106 minutes DCP
M (offensive language, sex scenes, violence)

Director

Screenplay

Diao Yinan

Producers

Vivian Qu
,
Wan Juan

Photography

Dong Jinsong

Editor

Yang Hongyu

Production designer

Liu Qiang

Music

We Li

With

Liao Fan (Zhang Zili)
,
Gwei Lun Mei (Wu Zhizhen)
,
Wang Xuebing (Liang Zhijun)
,
Wang Jingchun (Rong Rong)
,
Yu Ailei (Captain Wang)
,
Ni Jingyang (Su Lijuan)

Festivals

Berlin
,
Tribeca
,
Sydney 2014

Awards

Golden Bear (Best Film)
,
Best Actor (Liao Fan)
,
Berlin International Film Festival 2014

Elsewhere

A unique blend of pulp fiction flair and social-realist grit, Diao Yinan’s urban noir took home the Golden Bear for Best Film at Berlin. Opening in 1999, in the frozen industrial north of China’s Heilongjiang province, the story kicks off when severed body parts start showing up in coal plants around the region. Called in to head up the investigation, recently divorced detective Zhang (Liao Fan, who took the Silver Bear for Best Actor) finds a lead, but when an arrest at a hair salon is seriously botched the case goes cold. Fast forward five years later, a dishevelled Zhang has left the force in disgrace and is now working as a security guard, given to drowning his sorrows in drink. When further body parts start to turn up in the coal the eerie similarities of the new case prompt Zhang to start digging again.

“The unkempt, unorthodox detective, the sudden bursts of violence and acrobatic action, and the dark, incongruous humor, all of which are strongly reminiscent of Bong Joon-ho’s work, move the story along at a brisk, captivating pace.” — Giovanni Marchini Camia, Film Comment