Four Ways to Die in My Hometown

我故乡的四种死亡方式 (Wo guxiangde si zhong siwang fangshi)
China 2012. Dir: Chai Chunya. 90 min.

A four-part fiction film that’s as much poetry as it is narrative, first-time filmmaker Chai Chunya’s gorgeous work evokes four characters — a poet, a searcher, a puppet master, and a shaman — each with intense, mystical, deeply-rooted spiritual links to the land (the film was shot in and around Gansu province) mediated by the four elemental symbols: earth, water, fire, and wind. The film’s logic is associative, dreamlike; Chai builds up a series of striking tableaux, hypnotically suggestive and pictorially spectacular. Two young women lose a camel, then a father. A retired shadow puppeteer meets a gun-toting tree thief. Storytellers and shamans evoke a lost spiritual world that Chai films back to life in spectacular visual motifs whose meanings are intuited, like deeply-felt communal memories. In Gansu dialect with English subtitles.