2002 Chinese Film Showcase Home Page
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Fish and Elephant (Yu He Daxiang/ Jin Nian Xiatian)

(China 2001, 16mm, 106 min.)

Director: Li Yu
Cast: Pan Yi, Shitou, Zhang Jilian, Zhang Qianqian
Awards: NETPAC Special Mention, Berlin International Film Festival 2002

movie sceneDirector Li Yu had already tangled with censors in China with her independent documentary Sisters. She does so again with her focus on three young lesbian women in Fish and Elephant. Xiao Qun works at Beijing Zoo as an elephant keeper while her lover Xiao Ling runs a clothes stall in an indoor market. Their relationship comes under fire, however, with the arrival of Qun's divorced mother who, unaware that her daughter is gay, tries to set her up with a prospective husband. Further complicating matters is the appearance of Qun's ex-girlfriend JunJun, now wanted by the police after killing her abusive father. The director Li Yu uses an entirely non-professional cast and everyday surroundings to give the film a realistic edge. Fish and Elephant is the first feature film ever made in China about the emotional and sexual relationship between two women.

Director's Biography

Li Yu was born on December 2, 1973 in a small town in Northern China. On graduation from college as a Chinese Literature major, she excelled in being one of the top ten TV hosts in China. In 1997 she turned to documentary filmmaking and began a career as a writer-director at China's national TV network, CTTV. Her first independent documentary Sisters (1999), about the fate of a pair of twins in China, won critical acclaim abroad, but was banned, preventing Li Yu from attending a festival in France for which her film had been selected. Fish and Elephant is her first feature film.

Director's Note

"I wanted to express the real pain and helplessness of a woman. So that is why there is this movie. In the main character's eyes, society is like a wall. Her hopes and desires are blocked outside the wall. Her silent resistance brings her even more pressure and pain. Some say that the film Fish and Elephant, which paints the story of two female lovers, is a women's movie. Actually this is not totally true. Only the main characters are women. The two female actresses in the film in real life are a couple. However, shortly after I completed the film I ran into one of them and was told that they had separated. Thus, their love will live forever in my movie..."
- Li Yu

Critic's Corner

"...there is plenty to admire in the way Li integrates the plot and characters into everyday locations and uses surrounding elements to give her scenes an edge. The emotional issues are handled with warmth and conviction, and Li finds both humour and psychological truths in the succession of pointless meetings with would-be marriage partners."
- Tony Rayns, Vancouver International Film Festival


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