街娃儿 (Gai Wa’er)

China, 2021, 96’, Mandarin 
Directed by: Na Jiazuo
Screenplay: Na Jiazuo
Photography (color): Li Jianeng 
Editing: Kong Jinlei 
Art Direction: Wang Chunmo 
Music: Wang Yulong
Sound: Zhao Suchen  
Executive Producers: Wang Donghui, Liang Jing 
Production Supervisor: Guan Hu
Production Company: The Seventh Art Pictures
Cast: Li Jiuxiao (Dongzi), Yu Ailei (Xijun) Huang Miyi (Jiu’er)

Date of First Release in Territory: TBA

A curious phenomenon is being witnessed in the Chinese film industry for some years now: some of the directors who, in the 1990s and early 2000s, created independent cinema and endured years of hardship before achieving success at international festivals and then at the domestic box office, are opening agencies and production companies that financially support young filmmakers at the dawn of their careers. Jia Zhangke, Wang Xiaoshuai, Guan Hu, Ning Hao, Pema Tseden and others – now wealthy, illustrious veterans of the film industry – have assumed the guise of mentors of emerging talents, snatching them out from the clutches of the majors whose modus operandi is similar to the American majors, thereby not allowing much room for individual creativity. Streetwise is one of the results of this phenomenon: by director Na Jiazuo’s own admission, the film would not have been possible without the support of Guan Hu (The Eight Hundred, FEFF 2021) who encouraged Na Jiazuo during the film’s five-year writing process and then produced the picture with his company Seventh Art Pictures, founded with his wife Liang Jing to discover and support new talent. So while in 2021, the 100th year anniversary of the founding of the CCP, the domestic market has been dominated by films that, if not clearly propagandistic, are patriotic in spirit, the neo-noir Streetwise premiered at the Pingyao film festival – where the film’s star, Huang Miyi, won the best actress award – and went on to participate in the Cannes festival. The film, “dedicated to all souls in search of solace,” is a merciless portrait of provincial youth in the early 2000s, when mass migration to industrial mega-cities emptied China’s less developed areas. The story is set in 2004 in Zhenwu, one of the many small towns in the Sichuan province where the young people who remain are those who could not leave, or who chose to stay for ideological reasons or because of a deep connection to their place of birth. The main character, Dongzi, is a young man who has a very complicated relationship with his father, a violent and manipulative man who worked as a debt collector for a local mafia; he has a serious drinking problem that has reduced him to require costly and continual hospital treatment. Despite his resentment towards his father, Dongzi can’t find it in himself to shirk his filial duty and abandon his father to his fate. To pay for his father’s hospital treatment he has to work, but there is no way to earn an honest living in that context: so Dongzi also ends up working for a debt collector in the service of the same local boss. The situation is further complicated by the fact that Dongzi is in love with the boss’s wife, a troubled young woman who owns a tattoo parlor where drifters hang out; she wants to divorce her husband, leave Zhenwu and seek her fortune elsewhere. But all the characters in the film seem unable to break the chains that bind them to their lives of squalor, poverty and pain. They wander the streets of a city in twilight, one that seems darkened by smog or clouds. Metaphorically, they can’t see the light at the end of the tunnel or a solution to their existential problems. 

Na Jiazuo

Na Jiazuo (China, 1989) graduated from the Beijing Fine Art Academy and then the Beijing Film Academy. Streetwise is his debut film; the film picked up the award for Best Actress at the Pingyao Int’l Film Festival 2021, and was selected for the Un Certain Regard section at the Cannes Film Festival.


2021 – Streetwise
Maria Barbieri
Film director: NA Jiazuo
Year: 2021
Running time: 95'
Country: China
29/04 - 7:30 PM
Visionario, Via Asquini 33
29-04-2022 19:30 29-04-2022 21:05Europe/Rome Streetwise Far East Film Festival Visionario, Via Asquini 33CEC Udine