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Xiang ri kui (2005)

Relationship between father and son on a background of Maoist regime in China in the mid-20th century. The father, a painter by profession, interned in a labor camp for "re-education" and ... See full summary »


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Credited cast:
Zhang Xiuqing
Zhang Fan ...
Zhang Xiangyang - 9 years old
Ge Gao ...
Zhang Xiangyang - 19 years old
Wang Haidi ...
Zhang Xiangyang - 30 years old
Bin Li ...
Xiao Ji Shi
Xiangyang's wife
Zifeng Liu ...
Old Liu
Zhang Gengnian
Hong Yihao


Relationship between father and son on a background of Maoist regime in China in the mid-20th century. The father, a painter by profession, interned in a labor camp for "re-education" and loses his ability to paint. he teaches his son to draw, but does so obsessively. The convoluted relationship between father and son that spread over the period of childhood, adolescence and maturity of the son are being resolved in a surprising and sensitive way. Written by B-T. Horowitz

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Drama | Romance


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Release Date:

17 August 2007 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Sunflower  »

Filming Locations:


Box Office

Opening Weekend USA:

$4,195, 19 August 2007, Limited Release

Gross USA:

$23,307, 16 September 2007
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Did You Know?


Xiangyang's paintings at the exhibition were done by the contemporary Chinese artist, Zhang Xiaogang. See more »

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User Reviews

Delightful and somewhat epic film about life in China at various points of last century.
21 March 2008 | by See all my reviews

There are two scenes in Sunflower, a rare Chinese gem of a film, that genuinely made me feel that 'choke' you get when you're seeing something in a film that you know emotionally affects you in some way. The scenes are simple and seemingly unexciting on paper: a girl ice-skating as a male admirer sketches her and an apparent stray cat 'returning' to where it once lived. But to have two scenes that are indeed so simple on paper work so well in a film and be able to get that reaction, is a great achievement. Part of the reason you get this reaction is because of what Sunflower does in the preceding events leading up to these scenes.

I think to say this is the Chinese 'Forrest Gump' is a little too incorrect but immediately coming away from this film, it would be easy to label it so. Whereas Forrest Gump had a certain 'lack' of a father figure, it is the father figure that plays an important role in this film – mostly in the opening third but it has an effect on events thereafter. Sunflower splits its narrative up into three chapters; something it borrows from American cinema, for sure, but it has that theme of 'authority' running through it throughout. Often this authority is channelled toward Xiangyang (who is portrayed by three actors at different ages) but the mother will also exercise her anger and authority when the family are turned down a flat for themselves and the father in question spends several months away at a Communist run camp in the 1960s – a place where authority is rife and anger is taken out on its inhabitants. It is also because of this camp visit that makes the father so authoritarian toward his son as his artist 'living' is ruined and thus; wants his son to go down the route instead.

It would not surprise me if the film was loosely based on some real experiences that the screenwriter might have gone through. The opening chapter takes place in 1967 where the film revolves around a nine year old Xiangyang and his struggling relationship with his father. During this segment, Xiangyang experiences an earthquake; a military coup following the death of a communist leader and an actual gathering in the town square featuring all the kids as they watch a film projected onto a makeshift screen. Such authenticity, especially the last example, and attention to detail as we have the world in which these character inhabit pointed out to us –earthquakes and how they affect characters; the end of regimes and how the consequences of the celebrations can impact on them.

With these three segments set during different years, we really get the feeling that time has passed because with the attention to detail such as the examples above, the atmosphere that various different things happen at various different times that do not further the plot help in the progression of character relationships. The second segment happens in 1976 and sees the greatest progression in its characters. The ice-skating scene is, as I've mentioned, one of the more beautiful scenes in the film for a number of reasons. Firstly, there is the framing which gets closer and closer to the figure as they skate and Xiangyang draws – he is getting each detail he wants as we systematically see her in a closer fashion. What's more, the framing does not suggest he is watching her in a manner that represents the 'gaze' because it is impossible for a human being to see an item at one distance and then at a closer distance without physically moving – something Xiangyang doesn't do. The music and poetic movement of the skater aids in the effectiveness of the scene.

One of the more remarkable things about Sunflower is that it feels epic and this is without any cheap gimmicks or special effects. If the film has any sort of flaw, it is that the final chapter revolves around a domestic situation that is whether or not the couple that is Xiangyang and Xiuqing (Chen) should have a baby. This plot path feels a little familiar but it is supported very well by its constant theme of authority when the parents would like them to have a child. But, the disturbing undercurrent here is that they obviously are not able to realise their son is old enough to make decisions for himself. But the final third opens the eyes for other reasons: we are allowed out of the boundaries of the neighbourhood; we get glimpses of the big city and all the mise-en-scene that accompanies it such as motorways, skyscrapers and Xiangyang suddenly driving around in a jeep. It seems his artistic creativity has been furthered and a leak in a pipe adds to the series of outside agency events interfering with the character's lives. Sunflower is not your typical Far East production that relies on martial arts and beautiful cinematography like a Yimou Zhang film might – nor does it resemble a John Woo film. Instead, Yang Zhang directs a touching and straightforward film that touches and captivates whilst remaining entertaining.

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