Review: ‘Brother’

A docu-style journey through familiar thematic territory made ethnographically interesting by its unfamiliar setting in the remote highlands of China's North-Western Qinghai Province, Yan Yan Mak's debut "Brother" offsets the intimacy of its dramatic concerns with the sprawling vistas of its rugged locations.

A docu-style journey through familiar thematic territory made ethnographically interesting by its unfamiliar setting in the remote highlands of China’s North-Western Qinghai Province, Yan Yan Mak’s debut “Brother” offsets the intimacy of its dramatic concerns with the sprawling vistas of its rugged locations. Exploring the unbridgeable distances that grow between people and the bonds that nonetheless remain, this technically raw, unhurried drama demands considerable patience. But its gently seductive mood should secure bookings on the festival fringe and multicultural TV, where the shoestring operation’s poor-quality 35mm transfer will be less of a problem.

Contextualized against the return of Hong Kong to Chinese domain, the DV-shot feature tails H.K. youth Ah Ming (Stanley Tam, who also edited) to the mainland in search of his estranged brother, his only clue a letter written three years earlier. Reaching the mountain village where the letter was postmarked, he gradually overcomes differences in customs and dialect and gains the trust of two young people who knew his brother. Ah Ming’s self-discovery during the search prompts him to follow in his brother’s path. Underground musician Wang Lei’s guitar score enhances the soulful tale’s momentum.

Brother

Hong Kong

Production

An Abba Entertainment presentation of a Hua Lian Zhan Dui production. (International sales: Ying E Chi, Hong Kong.) Produced, directed, written by Yan Yan Mak.

Crew

Camera (color, digital video-to-35mm), Siuki Yip, Eric Lau; editor, Stanley Tam; music, Wang Lei; art director, Fan Hong-Min; costume designer, Evelyn Ho. Reviewed at Venice Film Festival (Critics Week), Aug. 30, 2001. Running time: 89 MIN.

With

Stanley Tam, Jin Cai-Xia, Cai Tao, Ma Ke, Yaxiuer Lataijia, Cao Wan-Yan.
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