top of page


March 5 / 17:30

     活着唱着 TO LIVE TO SING

  Johnny Ma
2019 / Drama / China -France / 100 min

Mandarin spoken - English subtitles

The simple story of an opera troupe fighting for their way of life that becomes their own fairytale opera story.

SYNOPSIS / Zhao Li is the manager of a small Sichuan Opera troupe, living and performing together in a rundown theatre located in the outskirts of Chengdu, China. When she receives

the notice of demolition for the theatre, Zhao Li hides the news from everyone else, fearing that this could spell the end of her opera troupe: besides the physical demolition of their space, it’s the life of her “family” that is at stake.
As she struggles to search for a new theatre for them to both sing and live in, the opera and its fantastic characters slowly begin to seep
into her real world...


There are now only a handful of the traditional travelling opera troupes in Sichuan that still perform in the old way: Travelling from neighborhood to neighborhood and changing to new theatre locations every few years when local ticket sales dries up. A major challenge facing these small troupes like ZHAO LI’s has been the decline in affordable theatre locations. Each time the troupes prepare to move again, there is the risk that if they cannot find a new theatre space to both sing and live in, the troupe family would be forced to disband.
The story of Zhao Li and her troupe’s fight for their home and theatre is the perfect metaphor to explore the larger theme of traditions struggling against the modern society’s change of time.

Introduction by Sven Hollebeke
Kuleshov - Urgent FM


To Live To Sing_Director_Johnny Ma.jpg

Johnny Ma
Director, writer

Born as Ma Nan in Shanghai, China, Johnny first immigrated to Toronto at the age of ten.
Johnny graduated from the film program at Columbia University and was a fellow at the Sundance Institute Screenwriting and Directing Lab in 2014.
In 2012, Johnny moved back to China to make his thesis film A GRAND CANAL, which premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival. In 2016, OLD STONE, Johnny’s directorial debut world premiered at the Berlinale. It was awarded the Best Canadian First Feature Award at the Toronto International Film Festival and Best First Feature at the Canadian Screen Awards. The film was nominated in five other categories, including Best Film.
Johnny currently resides in Shanghai.



bottom of page