The Foolish Bird
Gateway | Youth | Dragons & Tigers
Chinese cinema has very few filmmakers like Huang Ji, an independent woman director willing to film tough, realistic, compassionate stories about young women growing up. Her first film Egg and Stone won prizes around the world; with Foolish Bird Huang picks up the story, based on her own life, of Lynn, now a 16-year-old high-school student left behind by her absent working parents in rural Hunan province. Egged on by her best friend May, Lynn decides to sell some of the cellphones entrusted to her care—she’s class monitor and her classmates must deposit their phones with her at the beginning of class—for quick cash. Lynn and May use the money to hang out in Internet cafes, where they take further risky decisions, latching on to a group of possibly enticing but certainly threatening young ruffians. At the same time, they find out about a shocking murder-rape of one of their classmates.
Non-pro actress Yao Yonggui is terrific as Lynn, navigating the opportunities, attractions and dangers of adolescence with a gutsy power and a sure sense of her own budding sexuality. Co-directors Huang Ji and Ryuji Otsuka (he is also co-screenwriter and the film’s cinematographer) have made a coming-of-age story in China with unprecedented daring, honesty and maturity.
— Shelly Kraicer