Venice Festival’s surprise film is China’s “People Mountain People Sea”

7 September 2011 13 h 25 min 8 comments

“People Mountain People Sea” (“Ren Shan Ren Hai”, 人山人海) is the surprise film in competition at the 68th edition of the Venice Film Festival, the Biennale announced yesterday. The film brings the number of films in competition up to 23 titles to compete for the Golden Lion.

Directed by Beijing-based director Cai Shangjun (蔡尚君), “People Mountain People Sea” is a drama about a young man that wants to find the killer of his younger brother and claim a reward. He seeks out the assistance of an old friend, and the journey becomes one that fuels his grief and rage. The film was inspired by a real story in Liupanshui, Guizhou province. The film premiered globally in venice, on Sept 6.

In WSJ, Mr. Cai described the film as a revenge story. “In times of rapid change,” he said in a statement, “how do we find peace of mind and our true self?”. The film’s title is an “expression that means ‘sea of people,’” Mr. Cai said. A direct translation would be “people mountain people sea,” which is a proverb used to describe “the magnificent scene of numerous people gathering together.”

Shangjun has previously made the film The Red Awn, which won the FIPRESCI Prize at Korea’s Pusan Festival in and the Golden Alexander Award for best film at Greece’s Thessaloniki International Film Festival among other awards.

“Surprise film” is a Golden Lion category introduced by director Marco Muller in 2004. Each year at Venice, the title of one film is kept secret until just before its screening. Last year, the festival already selected Chinese director Wang Bing’s (王兵) “The Ditch.” The Chinese film “Still Life,” (三峡好人) directed by Jia Zhangke, was a “surprise film” in 2006 and won the year’s Golden Lion.

The winner of the Golden Lion award for the 68th edition of the festival will be announced on Saturday.

SOURCES: China Daily, WSJ, Screen Daily, Screen International (6 & 7/09/2011)


. “Chinese tale of revenge is surprise film in Venice” (AFP, 7/09/2011)
. “Venice’s surprise film is China’s People Mountain People Sea” ( Screen Daily, 6/09/2011)
. “Venice Taps Chinese Film as This Year’s ‘Surprise’” (  7/09/2011)
. “One more Chinese film competes for Golden Lion” (, 5/09/2011)

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