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Hoping for a towering success

By Xu Fan | CHINA DAILY | Updated: 2023-11-20 08:07

The protagonists in a restaurant. CHINA DAILY

In addition to the major characters, the cameos and extras complete an interesting picture of traditional Beijing and its distinctive hutong culture, exemplified by a scene featuring local residents gathering on the sidewalk to play chess, a conventional form of entertainment in Beijing.

In February, the movie earned a nomination in the competition section of the 73rd Berlin International Film Festival. Two months later, during the 13th Beijing International Film Festival, it stole the spotlight by sweeping five awards, including the Tiantan Award for best leading actor and best screenplay. In late September, it also won the awards for best feature film and best cinematography at the 10th Silk Road International Film Festival. The film was released domestically on Oct 27.

Behind all these honors, the movie's plot was conceived during an unusual trip. In September 2020, Zhang concluded a 10-year tenure as a professor at Yonsei University in Seoul, South Korea, and flew back to China.

Due to pandemic control policies at the time, Zhang arrived at an airport in Guangzhou, the capital city of Guangdong province, and was required to undergo a 14-day quarantine in a hotel.

As he found himself confined to a small room, his mind began to wander. Memories of his youth flooded back, particularly those spent in the vicinity of the White Pagoda, where he would often gather with friends to while away the hours.

Although Beijing has undergone drastic changes in recent decades, the hutong areas near the White Pagoda — from the narrow alleys to the traditional courtyards — have retained their traditional appearance, giving the director, who was born in 1962, a touch of nostalgia.

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