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The small opera troupe Zhao Li in Sichuan province is the focus of this astonishing film by Zhao Gang. 16-year-old Dandan dreams of a great career as an actress and wants to break away from the strict maternal grip of the theatre company. We watch as cracks slowly appear on many different levels in the world of the little traditional theatre. Building works look like bringing the whole theatre down. One of the operas dissolves into a seemingly bizarre religious ceremony, in which Dandan becomes a sacred figure worshipped by the audience. The dividing line between fiction and reality becomes blurred. The audience, mainly elderly Chinese men, cry their eyes out. Are we witnessing the oft invoked catharsis in the theatre or watching the disappearance and meagre remains of an ancient tradition? A microcosm in upheaval. A masterly piece of direct cinema, unsettling, intense and up close in the life of a theatre which will soon cease to exist.
Zhao Gang is a documentary film director, a member of the Chinese Artists Association and the director of the Documentary Academy of the Chinese Television Association. From 1996 till now, he has been creating films. His previous work consists of numerous documentaries, amongst others Shangshu Academy Witness (2010), selected for New Asia Film Festival and finalist at Golden-Panda International Documentary in the 10th Sichuan TV Festival and The Sun in Winter (2007), ranked Class One of Year 2003 in National Broadcast and Television Programs.