Based on Yu Hua’s novel of the same name, To Live tells the story of a noble family who lose their fortune. They are swept away on the wave of socio-political change that surges through China, firstly with the civil war and then the Cultural Revolution.
Fugui (You Ge) is a nobleman who loses his family home and fortune through reckless gambling. His wife Jiazhen (Gong Li) is pregnant but takes her daughter and leaves. Fugui is given a box of puppets and ekes out a living as an entertainer until he is conscripted into the army. When he is reunited with his family he discovers that his daughter has become mute but his children and wife care for each other deeply. Greater hardships lie ahead for the family but they survive their personal tragedies and tumultuous social upheaval with an unending resilience for the future.
When the film was released in the mid nineties it was met with excitement from critics and audiences alike who were experiencing this new era of Chinese cinema. Roger Ebert called To Live a “big, strong, energetic film” and noted “it is exciting to see these new films as they emerge from China. They are history being written, celebrated, and mourned.”
To Live (Huo zhe)
8 Mar + 14 Mar
Spanning over four decades, Zhang Yimou’s epic family drama won him numerous international accolades including Best Foreign Language BAFTA, Grand Jury Prize and Best Actor at the 1994 Cannes Film Festival.
The film was initially banned in mainland China but was later released due to its international success. However both Zhang Yimou and Gong Li suffered a two-year ban from filmmaking from Chinese authorities.