At the Allers-Returns festival, uncompromising looks at Chinese reality

At the Allers-Returns festival, uncompromising looks at Chinese reality


Festival organizers who don’t want to be talked about don’t roam the streets! This is, however, the case of the volunteers who organize Allers- Retours, an event intended to highlight Chinese auteur cinema, the sixth edition of which takes place from February 2 to 11 in Paris, and for the second consecutive year , in Lyon, from February 14 to 17.

Would the festival be a failure? Quite the contrary. The screenings organized at the Guimet Museum in Paris, on Friday February 2 and Sunday February 4, were sold out and, during the week, the films screened in other cinemas in the capital, such as the Studio des Ursulines, also gained a following. great success. But the young members of the Chinese diaspora are convinced that it is in their interest to remain “modest and discreet” , particularly with regard to the Chinese authorities, who are increasingly attentive to the commitments of the Chinese abroad.

Chance ? These young people created this festival in 2018, the same year when, in China, censorship, until then entrusted to the government, came under the control of the party. An organizational change which resulted in much stricter control over the seventh art. And 2018 is also the year that star Fan Bingbing mysteriously disappears. We later learned that she was arrested and placed under house arrest, officially for tax evasion. In fact, it was about sending a message to all the country’s celebrities: no one should feel above the law. Fan Bingbing has since been released, but no major director dares to work with her anymore.

However, the spectators who attended the opening session of Allers- Retours, Friday February 2 in Paris, were surprised to see the star playing the role of an airport security agent beaten by her husband, in Green Night (2023), a punchy film from a young director, Han Shuai, who had the wisdom to film in South Korea.

Female emancipation

On Sunday February 4, the organizers organized a master class led by Wang Bing, this immense documentary filmmaker who, since 2022, has chosen to live in France. An exchange preceded by a “surprise screening” , announced the program. It was in fact Man in Black (2023), a documentary by Wang Bing on the composer Wang Xilin, an octogenarian who candidly recounts the violence to which he was a victim during the Cultural Revolution.

It was in order not to provoke the Chinese authorities that the organizers did not mention the film – obviously banned in China – in the program. Other feature films broadcast were only entitled to a confidential release in the Middle Kingdom. Like This Woman (2023), a film which constantly oscillates between reality and fiction and in which the young director Alan Zhang tells the life of a young mother who admits to being less interested in her daughter than in her lovers, an obviously politically incorrect story.

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