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Q&A with Yingje Guo Chair of Chinese Studies + Gabriele Abbondanza Associate Fellow at the Institute of International Affairs (IAI).
In Andrea Segre’s poignant debut feature, Shun Li is a softly-spoken young Chinese immigrant who is moved by her Chinese broker from a clothing factory to a new job as a barmaid in Chioggia, a small fishing community on the Venetian lagoon.
There she manages the bar and serves the fishermen regulars in halting Italian. Among these is Bepi, nicknamed “The Poet,” who has just retired from a long fishing career. He and the gentle Shun Li bond, sharing a love of poetry, both being from families of fishermen, and both are foreigners (Bepi is Slavic). Bepi also learns that Shun Li is struggling to earn enough money to pay back her brokers so she can bring her young son to Italy.
Soon the all too familiar forces of hate, prejudice and paranoia disrupt their innocent friendship: vocal anti-immigrant cynics are convinced the Chinese are taking over, and rumours that their relationship is more than a friendship are problematic for Li’s employers.
This unusual and compelling first feature was deservedly selected for the Venice Days section of the Venice Film Festival, and the remarkable central performance by Zhao Tao as Li is both restrained and heartfelt.
Tuesday 24th August