Back to Back, Face to Face

Director: Huang Jianxin
Screenwriters: Huang Xin, Sun Yian

Institute History

  • 1995 Sundance Film Festival


Director Huang Jianxin (The Wooden Man’s Bride) has crafted a hilarious comedy about Chinese bureaucracy and the surprising ways people have devised to get around it. The action takes place in and around a municipal Cultural Center, where Wang has been acting director for ten years; he is well liked by the staff, knows the ropes, and is a king of political connections. Everyone believes he is a shoo-in for the post of director.

But in spite of his maneuvering, Wang is passed over for the job, and Ma, a peasant leader of a small village, is chosen instead. If that isn’t enough, Wang has a daughter, which means he cannot, under China’s strict one-child law, try for a son to carry on his name.

Faced with these seemingly insurmountable problems, Wang launches an attack on the Chinese institutions which are holding him back. Back to Back, Face to Face is a not-too-flattering view of the Chinese system and has been surprisingly green-lighted by the increasingly strict Chinese censors. Quick and witty, Huang Jianxin’s film is a contemporary comedy about the nature of real people and the way politics permeates every aspect of Chinese life.

— Christian Gaines

Screening Details

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