Directed by Cai Chengjie • Drama • With Tian Tian, Gao Pengcheng, Wang Qilin, Shuyan Feng • 2018 • 120 minutes
Winner of the top prize at the Rotterdam Film Festival, director Cai Chengjie’s debut feature is, like its titular protagonist, unexpectedly powerful and fiercely unpredictable.
Deemed cursed by the local villagers, three-time widow Er Hao (Tian Tian) has her hands full with a rogue fireworks explosion, a tagalong teenager, and a veritable army of crazed local men who can’t keep their hands off her. Turned away when she seeks shelter from her neighbors and forced to take up residence in a cold camper van, Er Hao’s future looks as bleak as the stark, snowy countryside.
But a series of fluke changes in fortune causes Er Hao to embrace the mystical identity her villagers have assigned to her. As a sort of modern shaman, she steers superstitions into small subversions, helping others who once shunned her and proving that to survive as a woman is a kind of magic.
With a stunning array of visual styles and a genre-exploding approach to storytelling, THE WIDOWED WITCH is a simultaneously idealistic and despairing film—a bleak view wrapped in a fabulist aesthetic, and one that encompasses both magic realism and crushing social satire.
"Appealingly eccentric fable from Chinese newcomer Cai Chengjie." —Guy Lodge, Variety