Closing her retrospective, Xiaolu Guo‘s How Is Your Fish Today? (2006) offers an intriguing meta-fiction on identity and creativity, set on the Chinese-Russian border. In contrast, Late at Night: Voices of Ordinary Madness(2013) digs behind the facade of gentrifying East London to reveal lives as marginalised as those explored in her Chinese work. Introduced by Guo.
Late at Night: Voices of Ordinary Madness trailer
Part of Not Just Me but You Too: Cinemas of Sisterhood, April 2019 – March 2020.
This year-long season of films, entirely by women and gender non-binary filmmakers, covers artists’ and experimental film, documentary and essay film, alongside filmmaker appearances, readings, discussion and guest speakers. Expect programmes dedicated to particular makers, themed programmes with contemporary artists and celebrations of key feminist thinkers, all in dialogue with Pages Cheshire Street, a new independent bookshop dedicated to women and non-binary writers.
2.45pm How Is Your Fish Today?
16.30 Late at Night: Voices of Ordinary Madness
How Is Your Fish Today?
2006 / 85mins
A young man killed his lover in southern China. He starts a lonely escape across the whole country towards his land of wonder, a snowy village at the northern border. Sitting at his desk in Beijing, a scriptwriter is writing the man’s story. His life and his character mirror each other. His imagination blurs the boundaries between reality and fiction. The snowy village lies on the quiet border between China and Russia. The villagers are fishing, hunting, and they endure the long winter nights waiting for the sun to come back. When the scriptwriter arrives in the mysterious village, he encounters his own fictional character who is lying on the frozen river at the border, covered in snow. They both contemplate the icy landscape, expecting the legendary northern lights to appear in the sky.
Late at Night: Voices of Ordinary Madness
2014 / 71mins
George Orwell wrote: “If you want a picture of the future, imagine a boot stamping on a human face forever.” Introduced by a Warholesque newsreader, Late at Night presents the voices of a number of Londoners – street gangsters, beggars, working class heroes, and preachers, most of them excluded from the society and the area they live in. Their anguished words build a network of responses to the hyper capitalist world we live in. The film also includes an interview with the radical left British cultural theorist Mark Fisher (author of Capitalist Realism and much else, who died four years after the making of the film). Fisher points out that ‘privatized depression’ is a notable product of capitalist infiltration. The film uses quotes, archives and media materials to construct an image of today’s Britain and leads us to question our future under the institutional madness of global capitalism.
One of the most distinctive figures in world literature and cinema, the multi-award winning Chinese writer and film-maker Xiaolu Guo has, over the last 20 years, crafted a singular body of film work, covering short and artist’s film, documentary, essay and fiction features, and her films have premiered at Locarno, Sundance, Toronto and Venice, among many other festivals. Tracking her own experience living between a radically changed China and the West, Guo’s films explore marginalised lives in transit across a globalised world.
This first complete retrospective presents all her films, and Guo will be present at each screening, throughout May.
Read a career interview with Xiaolu Guo here.
Xiaolu Guo is a Chinese British filmmaker and novelist. A graduate of the Beijing Film Academy and the UK National Film and Television School, she has worked both in Europe and China in cinema and literature. She is one of the inaugural fellows of the Columbia Institute of Ideas and Imagination in Paris and a jury member for the Man Booker Prize 2019. Her feature films include She, a Chinese (Golden Leopard Award, Locarno Film Festival 2009), How Is Your Fish Today? (official selection, Sundance Film Festival 2006, Tiger Award Special Mention, Rotterdam International Film Festival, Grand Prix at the International Women’s Film Festival, France) and UFO in Her Eyes(2011, produced by renowned German filmmaker Fatih Akin and premiered at TIFF). Her documentary features include Once Upon A Time Proletarian(Venice Film Festival Official Selection and TIFF 2010); We Went to Wonderland (ND/NF MoMA & Rotterdam International Film Festival 2008); The Concrete Revolution (Grand Prix, International Human Rights Film Festival Paris, Cinema du Reel 2004); Late At Night: Voices of Ordinary Madness (BFI London Film Festival 2013) and Five Men and a Caravaggio(BFI London Film Festival 2018). She is also an award-winning writer with eight novels published by Penguin Random House in the UK, and in Germany.