Festival Film: One Second



Zhang Yimou (Raise the Red Lantern)  is one of the fifth generation of people who are part of the artistic re-emergence of China after the Cultural Revolution. He has won numerous awards, including three Academy Awards, and directed the opening and closing of the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing.

Selected for the Berlin Festival in 2020 but withdrawn for “technical difficulties encountered during post production” just before screening, One Second was later  re-edited, with criticism of the Cultural Revolution toned down, and a closing sequence added.

An unnamed escapee (Zhang Yi) has been sent to a forced labour camp somewhere in the Gobi Desert. He has an obsession to get a glimpse of his estranged daughter in a newsreel which is to be shown in a nearby town. He was sent to the labour camp for being “a bad element” when he assaulted a red guard and has not seen his daughter for eight years, and is obsessed by the desire to get a glimpse her in a newsreel which is to be shown at a nearby town.



On the way he encounters a poverty-stricken orphaned 12 year old girl, Lui (Lui Haocien who is actually 18) who steals a reel of the 1964 propaganda film called “Heroic Sons and Daughters”. She wants to use the film to make a lampshade for her younger brother.

When the film eventually arrives it has been badly handled and needs cleaning. The villagers are instructed how to do this by Mr Movie (Fan Wei). He is a party member who takes pleasure in showing Mao’s messages to the people.



The townspeople, starved for entertainment are desperate to see the film in an overcrowded room with a white sheet for a screen. Everyone helps to clean the film to make it viewable, and then the newsreel is shown.

There is a sense of irony in this deeply layered film based on a novel by Geling Yan. It is beautifully filmed by Zhao Xi in soft colours which almost feel like black and white.



With flawless performances from the cast, this is a tribute to film-making long ago, and a celebration of cinema directed by Zhang Yimou and co-written with Zou Jingzhi.

Hopefully someday the film will be able to be seen in its original form.

104 minutes.

Spoken in Mandarin with English sub-titles.

Showing at Somerville, Nedlands from Monday March 14thto Sunday 20th from 7.30 pm.

Watch the trailer…