Every day tens of thousands of people cross the border between Shenzhen in Guandong and Hong Kong; not only tourists and businessmen but also the so-called danfei, children of mixed couples who live in Shenzhen and study in Hong Kong, people connected to both places but who do not really belong to either. The Crossing tells the story of these people, straddling two cultures, forced daily to cross a border that is not only physical but also metaphorical. And it also tells the story of the protagonist, Peipei, from the carefree innocence of the teenage years to a more problematic adult life.
Peipei is sixteen years-old and has a difficult relationship with her alcoholic mother; she lives with her in Shenzhen and accuses her of refusing to grow up. She often goes to visit her adored father, who has another family in Hong Kong. Peipei dreams of going to Japan with her best friend from school, Jo, who also lives in Hong Kong; at a party she meets Hao, Jo’s boyfriend, and his friends, a gang of petty criminals who smuggle iPhones across the border. Peipei agrees to become their “mule” to save money for the trip to Japan; thanks to her quick thinking, she soon turns from innocent schoolgirl to formidable smuggler. She becomes an integral part of the band of criminals, led by a woman, a maternal figure for the group, despite being an unscrupulous manipulator. She looks upon Peipei as the daughter she never had. The rush of adrenaline she gets at the border every day along with the sense of independence from earning her own cash become an unstoppable draw for the girl, especially when her “professional” relationship with Hao is complicated by an attraction that Peipei had never felt for anyone before. Faced with another “border” to cross – the consequences of which Peipei cannot fully grasp yet – the impending transition to adult life becomes harsh.
The Crossing cleverly blends elements of genre films to convincingly portray a very real situation, describing not only the psychological state of a young girl facing contrasting emotional states but also the change in atmosphere as she physically moves from mainland China to Hong Kong. The former British colony is depicted as a concrete jungle swarming with life, and photographed with a handheld camera darting through the crowds to follow Peipei’s every movement; Shenzhen’s relative tranquility is depicted with more static long shots.
The film is the first project funded by the Chinese major Wanda Media as part of the programme for young filmmakers promoted by the China Filmmakers Association, and is the result of in-depth research on the theme of young people living between mainland China and Hong Kong by director Bai Xue. The director used many of her former classmates at the Beijing Film Academy to write the script and form the crew, while one of her teachers – the famous 5th generation director Tian Zhuangzhuang – was the executive producer. The Crossing well deserves the numerous awards it has received, as well as the unanimous critical acclaim for focusing on what it means to be a “daily immigrant” in today’s fragmented and tortuous world.