TIFF 2015: The Promised Land Review

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In many ways, The Promised Land represents a big departure for veteran director He Ping. Known for making historical dramas for over 25 years now, Ping has basically made a Chinese mumblecore film. This is his first film set in modern day, and the love story about two youths who have migrated from rural areas to Beijing was shot without a script, depending largely on the actors for improvisation. 

The most interesting part about The Promised Land is where Ping places the camera from scene to scene. Often extreme high or low angles tilted to very specific degrees create very nice compositions that are also very playful with focus and colour. It’s difficult to reconcile this precise way of shooting with the improvised performances, but Ping makes it work. 

The young leads (Wang Jiajia and Zhang Yi) are charming, but that doesn’t prevent The Promised Land from falling into the same pitfalls of North American mumblecore, which is that the film drags in many places and lacks the conflict that would create any kind of drama. At least Canadians will be amused by the male protagonist’s obsession with hockey, with a Team Canada jersey on the wall, he even dons a jersey of the much maligned Toronto Maples Leafs. 

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Screens

TUE SEP 15 9:00 AM @ TIFF Bell Lightbox Cinema 1
SAT SEP 19 12:45 PM @ TIFF Bell Lightbox Cinema 1

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Dork Shelf's TIFF 2015 Guide

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