China

AFI Fest 2014: ‘The Iron Ministry’ is a sensory tour of a society in microcosm

The first few minutes of The Iron Ministry are a black screen overlaid with the sound of train machinery. The darkness goes on long enough that some patrons were muttering over whether or not the picture was being projected correctly. Gradually, however, images come into view, though hazy and out of focus; hard to identify. The gears and bellows of the train pulsate and throb. They don’t look mechanical. It looks like the workings of grey, diseased organs. The first sign of human activity is a closeup of cigarette butts sloshing in a water-filled nook. And then people themselves finally enter the picture, mites living in the larger host body of the train.

Barbecues and bruises: ‘Burned Wings’ delivers both

Ming (Yang Shicong) lays atop a patch of grass on a sea-side cliff, the word ‘yes’ in torso sized letters written across the front of his shirt. As he stands to face the sea dotted with distant fishing boats, his shirt ripples in the wind, waving the bold letters ‘n’ and ‘o’ printed across his back. Burned Wings (2013) begins on serenity, but don’t be fooled, for this genre bloodbath is anything but serene.

‘The Cold Winter’ is a documentary on the chill of bureaucracy

“Why are there violent demolitions in a harmonious society?” asks artist Zhang Jun as he leads the cameras of director Zheng Kuo through the derbies of the wall that once stood behind his art studio. His joke about the Chinese phrase “harmonious society” is repeated later as he points out broken objects that lay scattered across his studio floor.

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