Far East Film Festival 20

Udine Italy April 20th/ April 28th 2018
The Film Festival For Popular Asian Cinema
Teatro Nuovo Giovanni da Udine
Sunday, April 23, time 8.00 PM

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Mr Zhu's Summer

A simple story about the relationship between teachers, pupils and their parents, in an elementary school in Qingdao in northern China, it hides a deep reflection on the values and state of modern-day Chinese society. The first feature film written and directed by Song Haolin, who has a long history of acting in TV series, demonstrates the artistic and auteur sensitivity of far more mature directors. The story is centred on Mr. Zhu, a bald teacher with a constantly bewildered look – he calls to mind the actor/director Xu Zheng and the existential crises his characters go through, swinging between feeling like a loser and a misunderstood genius. Mr. Zhu tries to convey the message of freedom and intellectual honesty with rather unorthodox methods, which causes him to clash not only with the undisciplined pupils, but also with the arrogance and ignorance of the other teachers and the parents. One pupil’s mother even slaps Mr. Zhu because he was unable to stop a brawl between two of his students.

Two of the kids in class – nicknamed Grasshopper and King Kong – are particularly troublesome, and they try the teacher’s dedication in his method, as well as his patience and peace of mind. King Kong is spoilt and disruptive, but his father fiercely defends his son, convinced that he will become an important man, as prophesized by a fortune-teller. Grasshopper, on the other hand, hails from a wealthy family, but is totally ignored by his father, too busy making money to dedicate time and affection to his son. When Mr. Zhu hears a story that Grasshopper has recorded, he understands that the boy is extraordinarily sensitive, but depressed; he tries to reach out to him but is unable to penetrate the facade of the rich, spoilt kid, who continues to misbehave with his friend. In this context of excessive selfishness and lack of discipline, a seemingly spontaneous gesture which should be considered normal – Grasshopper and King Kong help an elderly person who falls down in the street – becomes a big deal creating a media circus around it. Mr. Zhu’s career seems to have taken a turn: his school will receive an award and his teaching methods are to be publicly recognized. One of Mr. Zhu’s friends is a television presenter and he organizes an interview with him and the boys, But just before the live broadcast, King Kong and Grasshopper reveal to Mr. Zhu the real reason behind their charitable act, leaving Mr. Zhu no other choice but to resign his position in keeping with his moral values. He feels like a failure, as a teacher and as a man. But he doesn’t know that despite their lack of discipline, his pupils feel genuine affection towards him. They try to persuade him to return to the school, and to do so, they decide to win a race, so that when they are on the winner’s podium, they can publicly demonstrate their good faith and make Mr. Zhu come back to them…

The central theme of the film is not only the perverse spiral that the race for wealth has triggered in contemporary society, deeply affecting personal family relationships, but it is also a reflection of what success means in today’s China, where increasingly extreme forms of self-centredness coexist with social conformity, and where non-conformists like Mr. Zhu have trouble fitting in.
Maria Barbieri
Film director: 
Song Haolin
Year: 
2017
Running time: 
90

Trailer

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JC9gXOl62zs&list=PL5qowzmoQxh6RyMGtk4UkEVNT-pvgd_ED&index=16

Photogallery

  • Mr Zhu's Summer 00
  • Mr Zhu's Summer 01
  • Mr Zhu's Summer 02
  • Mr Zhu's Summer 03
  • Mr Zhu's Summer 04
  • Mr Zhu's Summer 05
  • Mr Zhu's Summer 06
  • Mr Zhu's Summer 07
  • Mr Zhu's Summer 08
  • Mr Zhu's Summer 09