COMPETITION – Tian Zhu Ding, the flip side of the Chinese miracle

Film cast © AFP

Jia Zhang-Ke presents a picture of contemporary China, through four interrelated portraits: four individuals from four different corners of China, confronted with the country’s growing inequalities and new aspirations for democracy and freedom.



A miner who is exasperated by corruption, a man who is forced to migrate to another region to find work, a welcome hostess who is harassed by a client, a labourer who works under increasingly degrading conditions. They have never met but they are all at the end of their rope and about to commit an irreversible act.

Tian Zhu Ding (A Touch of Sin)
was inspired by four extremely violent news stories, what the Chinese call tufa shijian (“sudden incidents”), that frequently make news headlines. First he investigated the actual events, going to the locations and interviewing people. He also worked with several non-professional actors, and was able to capture on film the reality of the living conditions of the Chinese people in rural zones as well as in the big cities where the international companies are located.

Photo from the film © RR


To create the characters as well as the narrative, Jia Zhang-Ke was inspired by the traditions of Chinese historical novels, classic Chinese operas and martial arts films (wuxia pan), all of which have a recurring theme of the struggle of the individual against oppression. The English title (A Touch of Sin) is actually a tribute to the Taiwanese film A Touch of Zen by King Hu, presented in Cannes in 1975.

Through the character Xiao Wu, an artisan pickpocket, Jia Zhang-Ke explores the flip side of the Chinese miracle: the city that is buried under the Three Gorges Dam (Still Life), a working class district that is destroyed to build a luxury apartment complex (24 City), the transformation of Shanghai (I wish I knew) Tian Zhu Ding marks a new phase in his filmography: his disenchanted vision has become harsher, tougher, more of a frontal attack. And what he shows us is violence of an extremely savage kind.


Béatrice de Mondenard

Friday 17 May / Grand Théâtre Lumière / 12 noon – 10:30 pm
Saturday 18 May / Salle du Soixantième / 10:30 pm

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