Grain in Ear
Director: Zhang Lu
Cast: Liu Lianji, Jin Bo, Zhu Guangxuan
Film genre: Drama
Cert 18, 109 mins, 2005
The summer heat shimmers over the plains of Northeast China when the grain is in ear, as the locals put it. Korean minority woman Cui’s husband is in jail. She survives by illegally selling kimchi from a flatbed tricycle, while the sex workers in the flat next door keep an eye on her little son, Chang-ho. A sympathetic Chinese cop offers to help her get a licence, and a male customer befriends her when they discover they are both from the Korean minority. But relying on the kindness of strangers is always a risky business.
Korean Chinese director Zhang Lu’s remarkable second feature pioneered the making of independent films in China about minority people by minority directors. Sleekly minimal, his perfectly controlled visual design makes you feel Cui’s restraint as she suffers in silence. But when betrayal pushes her beyond the limit, it suddenly shifts gears and the release is like a summer thunderstorm.