People Mountain People Sea

Ren shan ren hai

“A remarkably candid look at the Chinese underclass… A powerfully bleak story of few words and extraordinary images.” — Betsy Sharkey, LA Times

Director: Cai Shangjun
Year: 2011
Country: China
Running time: 91 mins
Censor Rating: R16 - violence, sexual violence, offensive language, content that may disturb

Producer: Li Xudong
Screenplay: Gu Xiaobai, Cai Shangjun, Gu Zheng
Photography: Dong Jinsong
Editor: Yang Hongyu
Music: Zhou Jiaojiao
In Mandarin with English subtitles

With: Chen Jianbin, Tao Hong, Wu Xiubo

Festivals: Venice, Toronto 2011; San Francisco 2012
Best Director, Venice Film Festival 2011

Inspired by a true crime story, this bold and unsettling revenge film takes a road trip down the dark by-ways and into the black urban heart of China’s wild Southwest. Cai Shangjun won the Best Director Award at Venice for this brutal and supremely cinematic vision of corruption and decay.

“Recently returned to his small village in Guizhou province after failing to make a go of it in a boomtown, Lao Tie learns that his brother has been robbed and murdered. When the local police identify the murderer but can’t track him down, Lao Tie takes up the search and returns to the throbbing metropolis of Chongqing. His quixotic journey leads him through bleak slums and illegal mines, where he encounters drug dealers, corrupt cops and violence of an increasingly intense and casual nature… Director Cai Shangjun expertly modulates the film’s growing dread and wretchedness with carefully choreographed long takes and stunning cinemascope vistas. Applying the austere observational style and sociological preoccupations of Jia Zhang-ke to a storyline that might suit adrenaline-fueled genre film director Park Chan-wook, Cai’s second feature is a disturbing glimpse into the dark heart of Southwest China’s industrial revolution.” — Jesse Dubus, San Francisco International Film Festival

“Superb… A portrait of a remarkably cruel and lawless world… Shangjun’s storytelling is elliptical, with the viewer left to make many of the connections for themselves. Yet rather than seem maddening, as it might, this actually works in its favor, increasing the clammy sense of dread throughout. And his direction is never less than absolutely assured.” — Shane Danielsen, indieWIRE