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March 9 / 20:00   retrospective


Zhou Xiaowen
1994 / Tragi-comedy / China / 98 min

Mandarin / Subtitles: English

Ermo hits all the notes of 1990s China: accelerating collisions between the new and the old, the market’s destructive effects on the “traditional” family structure – especially the division of labor by gender – and runaway consumerism in a globalizing world. (Radii)

SYNOPSIS / ERMO lives with her son and older husband, a former head of the village who has become ill and unable to work. Ermo works hard, making twisted noodles and selling them

in the marketplace to support her family. Despite her husband's plan to build a house, Ermo's ambition is to buy the biggest TV set in the district. Ermo's neighbour helps her make more money by driving her into town to sell her noodles and eventually getting her a job in a restaurant. In town, Ermo discovers she can also make money by selling her blood to the hospital. Every night, exhausted and anaemic, Ermo counts her savings, until the day when she will be able to afford the TV set...    


The film is undeniably tragic, not unlike many of the widely-known movies by Chinese directors of that time, which canvas the same themes. (Jia Zhangke’s The World in 2004, and of course Zhang Yimou’s contributions, all come to mind as representative of a 5th-generation-esque critical pessimism.)

But it is also a brutally exacting satire, and funny as hell. Ermo, a young woman in a rural Hebei village played by Liya Ai (also known as Alia), becomes obsessed with proving the scale of her own modernization, i.e. she wants to buy a big-ass TV. Radii



Zhou Xiaowen

Zhou Xiaowen, also known as Zhou, is a Chinese director born in Beijing in 1954. He graduated from Beijing Film University in 1975 and is part of the fifth generation of mainland Chinese cinema.


introduction by Jill Dhondt

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