The Story Of Qiu Ju

Director: Zhang Yimou
Screenwriters: Liu Heng, Chen Yuan Bin

Institute History

  • 1993 Sundance Film Festival


Zhang Yimou's fifth feature as a director, following his two consecutive Academy Award nominations for Ju Dou and Raise the Red Lantern, marks another significant change In style and tone from his past achievements. The Story of Qiu Ju focuses on the wife of a Chinese peasant farmer as she seeks Justice for the wrong that has been done to her husband. Gong U, who has played the lead in all of his productions, once again stars, this time in a less glamorous, but more real and sympathetic, role.

The village boss has had a fight with Qiu Ju's husband, and he has been kicked in his groin and temporarily disabled. Feeling that the boss has acted completely out of line, but more importantly, searching for an explanation from him and perhaps an apology, Qiu Ju pursues justice from a series of judicial bodies. Her quest forms the story of the film. It's simple and direct in the way the neorealist classics were, and very powerful. Realities of life as basic as the need for transportation to other places and shelter become obstacles. The rapidly changing nature of society is drawn with an attention to detail and nuance that is compelling and dramatic, so we follow Qiu Ju's travails with rapt attention.

Gong Li's performance as the tenacious wife is brilliantly understated, yet shines with dignity and honesty. There is nothing patronizing in the way we view her efforts. The labyrinth of bureaucracy that must be puzzled through isn't unique to China. And that sense of powerlessness in the face of Institutional authority is something that resonates in us all.

The expressive range that Zhang Yimou demonstrates marks him as a director whose dynamic creative control is second to none. It's unfortunate that because he is an Asian director, some may think they need to acquire a taste for Zhang's work, since this is a director and a film whose qualities can be enjoyed by everyone.

Friday Jan 26 1:00 pm
Egyptian Theatre

Wednesday Jan 27 9:30 1m
Prospector Square Theatre


— Geoffrey Gilmore

Screening Details

As you use our Online Archives, please understand that the information presented from Festivals, Labs, and other activities is taken directly from official publications from each year. While this information is limited and doesn't necessarily represent the full list of participants (e.g. actors and crew), it is the list given to us by the main film/play/project contact at the time, based on the space restrictions of our publications. Each entry in the Online Archives is meant as a historical record of a particular film, play, or project at the time of its involvement with Sundance Institute. For this reason, we can only amend an entry if a name is misspelled, or if the entry does not correctly reflect the original publication. If you have questions or comments, please email [email protected]