Along a sleepy Hunan riverside, two delinquent boys experience a summer of love and violence in Yang Heng’s visually stunning debut. Ali and Xiao Yu are two teenage rebels idling away their days along the banks of a river in Jishou, a quiet town in Hunan province.
They steal motorbikes, bully and rob kids, sing karaoke and get into fist fights outside the local internet bar. But their rough exterior belies a deeper romanticism, and a tenderness unfolds between them and their teenage loves.As one day bleeds into the next in this impoverished rural setting, it becomes apparent that these sun-baked days of misspent youth will be the wildest, freest time of their lives.
These everyday subjects are transformed by a groundbreaking digital cinematography unlike any other Chinese film. Alternating deep-focus with bold flatness, Yang explores spaces with a mastery that recalls both classical Chinese and modernist landscape painting. Filmed in a summery palette with images that give off an otherworldly glow, BETELNUT offers a one-of-a-kind vision of what it’s like to be young, poor and free in China.
“Yang is a first-class visual stylist, and BETELNUT is far and away the most exciting debut film I’ve seen all year.” —Michael Sicinski, The University of Houston
Winner, Best New Asian Filmmaker, Pusan International Film Festival
Winner, FIPRESCI Jury Prize, Hong Kong International Film Festival
Winner, New Vision Award, Continents Festival Nantes
“Exquisite!” —Tony Rayns, Film Comment
"Pure cinema" —Susanna Harutyunyan, FIPRESCI – The International Federation of Film Critics