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Knife in the Clear Water

April 6, 2018 @ 4:00 pm - 6:00 pm

Free screening and discussion! Co-presented by Crows & Sparrows and the Emergent Visions Series of the Fairbank Center for Chinese Studies at Harvard, in conjunction with the Harvard Yenching Indigeneity and Environment Symposium.

Winner of the New Currents Award at the 2016 Busan International Film Festival and based on the story by Shi Shuqing (who also co-wrote the screenplay), KNIFE IN THE CLEAR WATER is a stark and breathtaking portrayal of a rural Hui Muslim community in China’s Ningxia Province. After the death of his wife and as part of the mourning process, Ma Zishan is asked to sacrifice his only bull. Expressing with subtlety his emotional uncertainty between the call to honor the soul of his wife and his attachment to his most beloved animal, the film becomes an exquisite and psychogeographic exploration of loss, tradition, and transformation in the context of this marginalized community.

Following the film, all are welcome to take part in a post-screening discussion led by Peng Hai, Ph.D. Candidate in Chinese Film History at Harvard. Peng’s research interests include cinematic representations of real social geographies in Chinese films and the interactions between popular social discourses and filmic productions in China. KNIFE IN THE CLEAR WATER forms a primary part of his dissertation research for its representations of the people and landscapes associated with the Hui Muslim minority in contemporary China.

SYNOPSIS: In the far mountains of Ningxia province, the old Ma Zishan and his son start mourning his wife. Loved by everyone in the village and the family, the son wants to sacrifice their only bull for her 40 days disappearance ceremony. Zishan isn’t against it, but his sorrow and his love for the old animal make him wonder. Even his prayers and the Imam don’t seem to erase his doubts. Until one morning the old bull stops eating and drinking. Has he seen the knife in the clear water?

WANG Xuebo was born in December 1984. He started his film career as a producer, with films like Pema Tseden’s THARLO. The film Premiered in Venice in 2015 and won many awards including at Tokyo FilmEx, Golden Horse awards, APSA, Vesoul. Started in 2010, KNIFE IN THE CLEAR WATER was completed in 2016, and is the filmmaker’s first feature as a director.


April 6, 2018
4:00 pm - 6:00 pm


Brattle Theater
40 Brattle St
Cambridge, MA 02138 United States
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Fairbank Center for Chinese Studies

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