Sundance Film Review: Fallen City

Posted January 20, 2013 in

Photo Credit: Sun Shaoguang

Fallen City
Sundance Film Festival
Director: Qi Zhao

In May of 2008, the Sichuan earthquake completely demolished the small mountain town of Beichuan, China, killing 20,000 of its citizens. Director Qi Zhao puts a magnifying glass on the lives of three Chinese families affected by loss after the earthquake in his directorial debut, Fallen City. What makes this film stand out from the usual journalist perspective we get on natural disasters is Zhao's focus on the more psychological issues these families deal with, peppered with passive aggressive social commentary on the government's sterile "fix." First is a young couple who lost their 11-year-old daughter. They struggle to let go and move on with their lives, refusing to have another child. Next is a 14-year-old boy whose relationship with his mother has become strained as his grades drop due to the loss of his father in the earthquake. Perhaps the most interesting and infuriating of them all is a middle-aged woman who lost a slew of relatives, including her daughter and granddaughter, left to take care of a paraplegic mother while haphazardly tending to her duties as a community leader in the temporary housing provided for the survivors. Overall, the film is unique in its take on this disaster, and begins to feel more narrative than documentary once the characters and scenario has been set up. Zhao gives us quiet nature shots, showing the rubble of "old" Beichuan slowly taken back by the Earth, contrasted by the "modern" new city the Chinese government builds as a publicity campaign. "The citizen's of Beichuan are now happy and live full lives," we hear a robotic newscaster say. Zhao's documentary does a beautiful and intuitive job of showing the truth behind the facade.



Time: 1.21, 9:15 PM Venue: Temple Theatre, Park City

Time: 1.23, 3:00 PM Venue: Egyptian Theatre, Park City

Time: 1.24, 6:45 PM Venue: Broadway Centre Cinema 3, SLC

Time: 1.25, 6:15 PM Venue: Holiday Village Cinema 2, Park City

Time: 1.25, 9:15 AM Venue: Holiday Village Cinema 2, Park City

Photo Credit: Sun Shaoguang Photo Credit: Sundance Institute Photo Credit: Qi Zhao Photo Credit: Sun Shaoguang