The title is the feature film debut of young Chinese female filmmaker Yang Mingming. It stars Nai An — best known as the longtime producer for Chinese director Lou Ye, who at one point was banned alongside him from filmmaking in China for their work together— and Chinese indie cinema heavyweight Zhang Xianmin. Zhang is the critic and curator behind the now-defunct Chinese Independent Film Festival in Nanjing, was had been one of the country’s most influential.
The film was theatrically released in China in May but grossed just $32,000 (RMB224,000). Produced by Beijing Trend Cultural Investment, it tells a story of “mutual repulsion, hatred and harm” between a single mother and her daughter living together in a Beijing hutong.
“Girls Always Happy” participated in the Panorama Special section of the Berlin festival last year and won the FIPRESCI International Critics Award, and the Firebird Award for best debut feature at the Hong Kong International Film Festival.
This is the second film by Yang distributed by Icarus in North America. The first is her 2012 debut, the not-quite-feature-length pseudo-documentary “Female Directors,” in which Yang and her fellow film school grad friend turn the cameras on each other to recount their lives. Both titles are part of the dGenerate Collection at Icarus Films, the largest grouping of independent Chinese films available in North America, led by founder and curator Karin Chien.
Founded in 1978, Icarus Films is a long-time distributor of documentary works in North America. With a collection of over 1,000 titles, it works with independent producers from around the world to release 30-50 new films a year. Other China titles include Pema Tseden’s “Tharlo” and “Old Dog,” and documentaries by Wang Bing.
In June, Parallax signed a deal with former Wanda executive Jack Gao’s Smart Cinema to make the art house title “Red Flowers and Green Leaves” available to U.S. and Canadian viewers on their smartphones. Directed by Liu Miaomiao, “Red Flowers” tells the story of a marriage between a Hui Muslim husband and wife in rural China.