Friday, July 3, 2015
Indie filmmaker Li Ruijun (Fly with the Crane) is back with his fourth feature, a masterfully lensed nomadic road movie set in his dusty native province of Gansu, in Northwestern China. In River Road, Bartel and Adikeer, two Yugur ethnic minority brothers, venture out with their two-humped camels to join their herdsman father, following the death of their grandfather. During the long trek, following the path of a dried-up river bed, the children’s conflicts play out while the heartbreaking desertification of the Yugur grazing lands—signifying the end of a traditional way of life—serves as the backdrop. More than just a tale of stubborn figures pitted against an unforgiving landscape, Li’s film earns its emotional payoff thanks to the incredible performances of the young leads. Featuring the sand-blown splendor of infinitely sprawling vistas, ghost towns, and touches of the fantastic, River Road is an absolute masterpiece of Chinese filmmaking.