Black Dog 2024

Gou zhen

Directed by Guan Hu Widescreen

An ex-convict finds redemption in the bond he forms with an unwanted mutt in Guan Hu’s dynamically shot and darkly comic Un Certain Regard Prize winner.

Aug 13

The Civic

Aug 17

The Civic

China In Mandarin with English subtitles
110 minutes Colour / DCP
M
Violence, nudity & animal cruelty

Director

Producer

Zhu Wenjiu

Screenplay

Guan Hu, Ge Rui, Wu Bing

Cinematography

Gao Weizhe

Editors

Matthieu Laclau, He Yongyi

Production Designer

Huo Tingxiao

Costume Designer

Li Zhou

Music

Breton Vivian

Cast

Eddie Peng, Tong Liya, Jia Zhangke, Zhang Yi, Zhou You, Xin

Festivals

Cannes (Un Certain Regard), Sydney 2024

Awards

Un Certain Regard Prize, Cannes Film Festival 2024

Elsewhere

Featuring a canine cast of hundreds as well as a literal zoo-full of other creatures, the animal wranglers were surely working overtime on this one-of-a-kind Chinese feature. Eddie Peng stars as Lang, an ex-convict who returns to his dilapidated hometown on the fringe of the Gobi Desert which has been overrun with stray dogs. Soon he finds gainful employment in helping to round them up as part of a nationwide cleanup campaign ahead of the 2008 Beijing Olympics.

But perhaps the real star of the film is a lively black whippet who is suspected to be rabid and whose elusiveness has made its capture something of an obsession for the hapless dogcatchers it runs rings around. Even though their first encounter sees the black dog viciously bite him in the ass, Lang seems to see something of himself in the rangy mutt. As fellow outsiders the two form an unlikely friendship as Lang faces up to his past and the violent grudge held against him by a scary snake venom dealer named Butcher Hu while the black dog graduates from misjudged cur to noble companion. The buddy chemistry between the nameless black dog and Peng’s character proved to be so strong that Peng actually adopted the good boy, real name Xiaoxin, after filming wrapped. 

Director Guan Hu shoots the film in dynamic fashion with some of the most amazing set-pieces to be seen in this year’s Festival, including an absolutely killer opening shot involving a pack of dogs and an errant minibus, plus a beautiful scene set during an eclipse scored entirely with Pink Floyd. Guan’s noir-like intensity brings a fresh approach to this man-and-his-dog story and proves that sometimes all you need for redemption is a true best friend. — Michael McDonnell