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Notable films of 2016

By Raymond Zhou | China Daily | Updated: 2016-12-29 07:19

Notable films of 2016

The Wasted Time is among the best-received films of 2016 on China's big screens. [Photo provided to China Daily]

Five art-house gems

Movies that flaunt their unconventional narratives as a badge of honor usually end up with abysmal showings at the box office. So, it is a wonder that these films got made in a money-chasing environment, and an even bigger surprise that some of them attracted large crowds. (I admit they have marquee names and high production values, but they are still unconventional at the root.)

Kaili Blues

This could be the most refreshing directorial debut of the year. Bi Gan, 27, switched from shooting wedding videos to making a beautifully fluid little film. The plot is a little stream-of-consciousness, but the tracking shots are mesmerizing.


A boat journey up the Yangtze River has never been so dreamlike. The narrative may have many loose threads, but the visuals by Pin Bing Lee are absorbing.


This Tibetan tale of a middle-aged shepherd, rendered in stark black and white, captures a slice of life, together with a gentle soul, in an age of transformation. Tibetan filmmaker Pema Tseden fits the profile of an auteur who looks inward and backward rather than going with the flow of the commercial tide.

The Wasted Times

This star-studded and lavishly photographed period piece looks nothing like a typical art-house feature. Yet, in his heart, director Cheng Er eschews the public craving for a good yarn and goes for a tableaux of fascinating people in various tension-filled but extremely restrained situations. Under the facade of grandeur lies a distaste for conventional story-telling.

I Am Not Madame Bovary

OK, it garnered 455 million yuan, way beyond what an artsy feature would typically fetch. But Feng Xiaogang is clearly using his popular appeal to gain latitude for self-expression. His depiction of China's official scene ventures into a realm that calls for endless creativity.

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