Premiering nearly a year ago at the Berlin International Film Festival, I caught up with An Elephant Sitting Still at New Directors/New Films and hoped this impressive four-hour epic, the directorial debut drama from the late Chinese filmmaker Hu Bo, would see a U.S. release. Thankfully, KimStim has stepped up and will give it a release this March. Elephant tells the long and winding story of Wei Bu (played by Our Shining Days’ Yuchang Peng), and his classmates Wang Jin and Huang Ling, as they flee to a far-away city after becoming involved with escalated trouble at home. Ahead of a spring release, the U.S. trailer has now arrived.
Our own Zhuo-Ning Su caught Elephant in Berlin (full review) and touched on the tragic loss of the film’s director and how his legacy should impact audiences: “It cheapens the creativity of the filmmaker to say that the writing’s on the wall (Hu took his own life last October after finishing Elephant), but it would also be disingenuous to not notice the real struggle underlying this four-hour epic. In any case it’s a terrible waste to lose such a remarkable, uncompromising voice in today’s government-censored, market-dictated Chinese cinema – let alone at just 29 years of age. One can only hope that this film which, for all its overt and emphatic bleakness did not end on a tragic note, could offer some sense of solace to its audience, even if it had not been enough for its brilliant maker.”
Check out the new trailer below.
Under the gloomy sky of a small town in northern China, different protagonists’ lives are intertwined in this furious tale of nihilistic rage. While protecting his friend from a dangerous school bully, 16-year-old WEI Bu pushes the tormentor down a staircase. WEI escapes the scene and later learns that the bully is hospitalized and gravely injured. WEI’s neighbor, the 60-year-old WANG Jin, is estranged from his family and, with nothing to lose, decides to join him. Later the pair is joined by HUANG Ling, WEI’s classmate. She is bedeviled by an destructive affair with a married school official. Together, this unlikely and desperate trio, decide their only hope is to flee as the bully’s gangster brother, enraged parents and vindictive school authorities all go on a cold-blooded hunt for WEI across town. As WEI threads his way through the urban wilderness, he begins to come to terms with his own lost life. In the end, he boards a long-distance bus with HUANG and WANG toward a city in Manchuria, where it is a rumored that a circus elephant is said to be sitting still, seeming oblivious to pain and tribulations of the world at large.
An Elephant Sitting Still opens on March 8 at NYC’s the Film Society of Lincoln Center and will expand in the weeks to follow.