The German-based sales outfit M-Appeal has acquired world sales rights to “Return to Dust,” from Chinese director Li Ruijun. The film was selected Wednesday to receive its world premiere in Competition at next month’s Berlinale (Feb. 10-16).
The film follows the humble, unassuming Ma and timid Cao who have been cast off by their families and forced into an arranged marriage. To survive, they have to come together and build a home for themselves. In the face of much adversity, an eternal love begins to blossom, as both Ma and Cao realize that together, there is no obstacle.
M-Appeal describes “Return to Dust” as a “dramatic love story depicting life and its challenges in rural China.” The film examines “the human need for connection and the transformative nature of love. It is a masterfully crafted, heartwarming fable that conveys how just like botanical life, all humans require is some nurturing and care to flourish. Ruijin delicately explores the challenges of those who are ostracized, painting a rich, visually arresting aesthetic of the rugged landscape to reinforce the characters’ isolation.”
Li Ruijun has directed five feature films, which have established him as a rising talent of Chinese independent cinema. He tends to focus on the relationship between human beings and the land, as well as the rural attitude toward family, life and death in a rapidly changing China. Li’s films are rustic, showcasing the haunting beauty and the wild abandon of northwestern China.
Li’s “River Road” played at the 2015 Berlin festival in the Generation lineup. “Fly With the Crane” played at Venice in 2012. His most recent film, “Walking Past the Future,” screened in Un Certain Regard at the 2017 Cannes Film Festival.
M-Appeal managing director Maren Kroymann said: “ ’Return to Dust’ is a tender, magical story that is sure to resonate with cinema-lovers worldwide, as it captures the power of enduring love in a beautifully nuanced manner. Visually, it is a feast for the eyes as the cinematography skillfully portrays the reality of the Chinese countryside.”
In a statement, the director said: “It is said that film is the art of time. In this sense, a movie director’s work is essentially the same to that of farmers. In movie making, we have constantly faced with issues dealing with time and life. Farmers trust land and time with their crops and livelihood, so shall we trust land and time with our movies. The words on paper, like seeds growing into harvest, are transformed by camera shots into what we remembered in our distant memories.”