An Elephant Sitting Still

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An Elephant Sitting Still


Sunday Apr 07 04:00 PM


Doris Duke Theatre


Museum members: $10.00
General Admission: $12.00


About the Film:

Directed by Hu Bo. China. 2018. 230 min. Mandarin with English subtitles.

Under the gloomy sky of a small town in northern China, three protagonists’ lives are intertwined in this furious tale of nihilistic rage. While protecting his friend from a dangerous school bully, 16-year-old Wei Bu pushes the tormentor down a staircase. Wei escapes the scene and later learns that the bully is hospitalized. Wei’s neighbor, 60-year-old Wang Jin, is estranged from his family and, with nothing to lose, decides to join Wei. Huang Ling, Wei’s classmate, joins the pair as she escapes a destructive affair with a married school official. Together, this unlikely and desperate trio flee as the bully’s gangster brother, enraged parents, and vindictive school authorities go on a cold-blooded hunt for Wei across town. As Wei threads his way through the urban wilderness, he sets on a journey to board a long-distance bus with Huang and Wang toward a city in Manchuria, where it is a rumored that a circus elephant is said to be sitting still, oblivious to the pain and tribulations of the world at large.

Director Hu Bo, a young virtuoso Chinese filmmaker, took his own life soon after finishing An Elephant Sitting Still, which is considered a cinematic masterpiece and an enduring swan song by critics and filmmakers alike.

Film introduction provided by George Wang, Associate Professor of the Academy for Creative Media at University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa. George Chun Han Wang is Associate Professor of Creative Media at the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa. He is co-editor of King Hu: In His Own Words, the first English-language publication of King Hu’s writings. George contributed reviews and articles for Udine Far East Film Festival, Los Angeles Asian Pacific Film Festival, Journal of Chinese Cinemas, and Journal of Film and Video, and served as guest editor for Asian Cinema journal. A recipient of the Fulbright Senior Scholar Award, George previously taught film courses at the University of Hong Kong.

Director’s Statement: "He thought that in the beauty of the world there hid a secret. He thought that the world’s heartbeat at some terrible cost and that the world’s pain and its beauty moved in a relationship of diverging equity and that in this headlong deficit the blood of multitudes might ultimately be exacted for the vision of a single flower.” This quote from Cormac McCarthy is also the subject of this film. In our age, it’s increasingly hard for us to have faith even in the tiniest of things, and the frustration from which becomes the hallmark of today’s society. The film builds up personal myths in between daily routines. In the end, everyone loses what he or she values the most.

“An Elephant Sitting Still, that should become an enduring classic.” –Richard Brody, The New Yorker

“Chinese independent cinema is on the verge of extinction, which makes Hu Bo’s first and last feature film even more remarkable. Hu’s films retain the carnality of punk and operate on a lower stratum of perception, like an obsessive bass line from a Joy Division song.” –Celluloid Liberation Front, Cinema Scope


“In many instances, we desperately working to shoot a film. We burn ourselves, put the whole vitality into the movie, maybe not to lighten the world, but to share our heart and soul with the audience. This work is a good illustration of how a creator puts his life in a film. That’s extraordinarily moving.” –Ang Lee

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