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Io sono Li
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Reviews & Ratings for
Shun Li and the Poet More at IMDbPro »Io sono Li (original title)

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28 out of 30 people found the following review useful:

Documentary-like, committed and ... tender

8/10
Author: guy-bellinger (guy.bellinger@wanadoo.fr) from Montigny-lès-Metz, France
31 October 2012

No one on earth can understand an immigrant better than another immigrant. A truism for sure but which has seldom been illustrated so well as in "Io sono Li" (Li and the Poet), the first fiction film of Italian documentary maker Andrea Segre.

Immigration is embodied here by two complementary figures, Shun Li and Bepi.

Shun Li is a young Chinese woman who has succeeded in emigrating to Italy, without her son (whom she sorely misses) but with a debt to pay back to the illegal network that "helped" her to get there.

Bepi, on the other hand, is an old retired fisherman and amateur poet who left Yugoslavia for the little laguna town of Chioggia thirty-five years before.

Both will meet in the osteria (bar-restaurant) where Li works as a replacement barmaid and of which Bepi is a regular and a touching if difficult relationship will develop between them.

That is all there is to this film in terms of narrative, but "Io sono Li" does not need a strong plot to manage to exist. This delicate gem actually delivers much more than its story : a fine description of a rarely shown little town in the Venetian Lagoon, an attack against illegal emigration network, a criticism of intolerance and, best of all, the sensitive portrait of two engaging loners wonderfully played by Tao Zhao (the muse of director Jia Zhangke) and Rade Serbedzija (the Croatian actor who played the bio-chemical expert in "Mission Impossible: II).

When you leave the theater you understand "Io sono Li" is a real achievement.

It has all the virtues of a documentary without being dryly factual.

It is moving, even very moving as the film comes to its close, but without resorting to cheap tear-jerking tricks.

It is an involved work but its commitment is discreet and remains in the background

To make a long story short, 'Io sono Li' is a remarkable first feature that should not be missed.

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18 out of 20 people found the following review useful:

A Radiant, Wondrous Poem as Film

10/10
Author: gradyharp from United States
21 June 2013

Film Movement continues to bring to our attention treasures of cinematic art that we might not otherwise see. IL SONO LI (SHUN LI AND THE POET) is one of those rare gems of a movie that in a very gentle, quiet, simple fashion tells a story that in some way connects us all. Written and directed by Andrea Segre it gives notice of a major new light in cinema and we can only hope the success of this film will encourage him to create more in this genre.

Shun Li (Zhao Tao) works in a textile factory in the outskirts of Rome to enable her to get her papers that allow her eight-year-old son to come to Italy. She is part of the large Chinese organization that makes money off cheap labor in another country to keep the immigrants in a near slave like contract. She is suddenly transferred to Chioggia, a small city-island in the Veneto lagoon, to work as a bartender in a café pub. She rooms with another girl in similar circumstances. Bepi (Rade Serbedzija), an older Yugoslavian fisherman, nicknamed the Poet by his friends, has been a regular at that little pub for years: he left Yugoslavia at the time of the overthrow of Tito. Shun Li and Bepi are two lonely souls far away from homeland. Their encounter is a quiet almost poetic escape from solitude, a silent dialogue between cultures that are different, yet not more distant. They become close friends, but their friendship upsets both the Chinese and local communities, who interfere with this new voyage, and after confrontations and threats and fears, Shun Li returns to the factories until something beautiful happens and she returns to share this with her friend - a moment that is as touching in its surprise and tenderness as any on film.

The supporting cast is strong - both Chinese and Italian - and the cinematography by Luca Bigazzi is breathtakingly beautiful. The quiet, unintrusive but salient musical score is by François Couturier. This film is a soulful, eloquent exploration into the human heart made more poignant because of the coming together of tow immigrants who must now share a foreign language. In Italian and Mandarin with English subtitles. Highly Recommended.

Grady Harp

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9 out of 11 people found the following review useful:

Quiet & Touching Film

8/10
Author: Larry Silverstein from United States
9 August 2013

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Set mostly in the seaside town of Chioggio, Italy, this quiet and touching independent film resonated well with me.

Zhao Tao stars, in an understated and powerful performance, as Shun Li, a Chinese woman who is sent to work in Italy by the Chinese mafia, in what very well could be described as "indentured servitude". She's closely watched and supervised by her Chinese "handlers" who tell her when and where to go for work. However, each time she's transfered debts accrue on her account which keep delaying her "getting the news", which is that she's paid her account off and that her 8 year old son can be sent to join her.

In Chiaggio, where Shun Li is working as a bartender and waitress at a local cafe, she meets Bepi, or as his friends call him The Poet because he's always making up rhymes. Superbly portrayed by Rade Sherbedglia, Bepi is a kindly retired fisherman, recently widowed, who likes to hang out at the cafe with his friends. I've recently seen "Taken 2", where Sherbedglia plays an evil Albanian crime family boss. Here, he gets the chance to portray a sensitive "good guy" and he doesn't disappoint.

Bepi and Shun Li become friends, as they find out they have a number of things in common. Shun Li, as it turns out, comes from a long line of fishermen ancestors, plus Bepi originally came from a Communist country Yugoslavia. However, their main bond is that Shun Li is a devout believer in celebrating the soul of Qu Yuan, the foremost poet of Chines tradition. Each year at the Festival of the Poet, she honors him with floating a lit lantern on a river or body of water. So the fact that Bepi is considered a poet just solidifies their friendship.

When Shun Li's and Bepi's friendship gets deeper emotionally, it leads to rumor mongering among his friends and a strict warning from her "handlers" that she must end this friendship with a foreigner or that she'll have to start her debt to them all over again. This will eventually lead to dark and dramatic consequences for all concerned.

I thought the movie was well paced and directed by Andrea Segre, who also co-wrote the script with Marco Pettenello.

Overall, if you like quiet and emotionally interesting foreign films that are well acted and tell a good story, you may very well like this one.

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3 out of 3 people found the following review useful:

Great art

8/10
Author: gummo_rabbit from Netherlands
30 July 2015

A tender, sympathetic movie with imagery that is not spectacular but that will leave a great impression. The story – of a unique friendship across boundaries of culture and language – develops at a moderate pace but takes a dramatic turn in the end.

In all of this, the elements water, wind and fire play an important role, just as they did in the ancient Chinese poetry which runs as a thread throughout the film. Especially the element water. Water reflects and carries anything that will float. Water connects and separates. Water holds fish, a source of livelihood. And how do you sustain that, what do you do with the means of life you are given? It's one of the questions the film gets you thinking about. The opposite of water is fire and you will need to see the film for yourself to find out how fire is put to full dramatic use. And then there is the wind, which has the unique quality to bring us closer to a loved one far away. The elements are of course universal, as are friendship and love - the main themes in this story of immigrants.

Parenthood is another theme. It really got me thinking, having no children myself but being a proud uncle, what it must feel like to be a parent. For Shun Li, one of the two main characters, it is a source of great joy, but also of tears as she is separated from her son. Unfortunately not everyone is as grateful to be a parent as Shun Li, as we see in a striking scene with one of the main guests of the café.

Apart from being a poetic film about friendship, parenthood and the elements around us, it also tells us about sacrifice and how all acts are connected. This is shown through the role of Lian, the roommate of Shun Li. Lian is most often seen performing tai chi movements on the beach. Tai chi is an ancient Chinese form of martial arts for balancing body, mind and spirit. It is a way of getting in touch with the world around you and all the lifeforms in it, close by and far away. Lian is a silent figure but her final act proves to show her understanding of the way that all life and all deeds are connected.

It's a film about poetry where poetry becomes life, which is the main feature of great art.

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3 out of 3 people found the following review useful:

Beauty and ugliness

9/10
Author: David Crowe from Canada
20 April 2015

This is not the romantic Venice. A bar where the patrons run up tabs because they don't have cash. The wet and grey docks. The relationship between the young Shun Li, an immigrant from China, and the old Yugoslav fisherman, is not one that many people can accept, not even the friends of the fisherman, and the much younger Chinese woman, working like a slave to bring her son from China to Italy. Two people who are very alone find each other and it's beautiful. How can it end well? But like the gritty beauty of the side of Venice the tourists don't see, there's a beauty to the love that cannot be. The beauty of the relationship is that when two people find that they can understand each other, the relationship is a rainbow that shatters the grey sky of their dull and friendless lives. They cling to each other. They become everything to each other. Even though they both know it is impossible.

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5 out of 7 people found the following review useful:

A young Mainland Chinese woman has somehow emigrated to Italy where she works.i

8/10
Author: bsholley from United States
5 March 2014

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

With tears in my eyes and thunder in the background, the movie ends.

A young Mainland Chinese woman has somehow emigrated to Italy where she works in a factory, a café, and another factory. The story focuses on her stay at the café in a fishing village just south of Venice. The community in the village is the primary backdrop, and creates the tension between the residents and the Chinese. In particular, she meets a fellow immigrant who is considerably older than she, with whom she develops a unacceptable (according the the community) friendship.

Some of it is so beautiful to look at that I am not sure of the significance, only the sensation of transformation. Even in factories, sleazy streets, fights, and fishing huts, we appreciate not only the reality but also the spirit of the scene.

Maybe I have seen too many crime movies, but I was certain that her work for the freedom of her son was a scam, especially because she was moved several times, threatened with "starting over", and cloistered. Her friendship with Bepi was lovely, yet disallowed. Why? we ask. So little support was offered my work-mates. Why does this program even exist if there is so little personal concern?

Lian, the roommate was another interesting character. She seems as emotionless as Shun Li and seems to have comfort in Tai Chi, thus enabling her to provide some care to Shun Li. It appears she did have deep feelings or else a very powerful sense of loss that remains unexplained.

The film was education, it was touching. It was lovely and it was sad.

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0 out of 19 people found the following review useful:

pro multi cultural rubbish

2/10
Author: sugarfreepeppermint from London
11 April 2015

Although the film is set in Venice, don't expect beauty. It's all rather grim, unrealistically so. But ugly is the modus operandi for any director that wants to be taken "seriously," so there you go. This is the typical rubbish being made to affirm the sacred beliefs of a particular bleeding heart audience, who need to be convinced over and over again, that immigration (from 3rd world countries into Europe) is something that must simply be accepted, and that nationalism is bad. Most immigrants here are shown as saintly sensitive innocents, whilst the local working class population are portrayed as a nasty racist violent bunch of peasants.

Is a film like this really necessary, when boatloads of savage Africans, rape, murder and pillage their way through Italy under the guise of being "poor refugees?" I think not.

This is pathetic pantomime of the most basic kind, presented as profound drama for pseudo-intellectual libtards.

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