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In Ying Liang’s semiautobiographical feature, Gong Zhe plays a Chinese filmmaker living in exile with her husband and young son in Hong Kong after her last film ran afoul of the mainland authorities. When she is invited to a film festival in Taiwan, she books her ailing mother (Nai An) on a guided tour of the island so she can see her grandson for the first time and her daughter for perhaps the last. This heartbreaking setup yields a film rich in emotion. There are tender family moments—such as when, on first sight of her grandson, the grandmother pulls back from touching him so he can sleep—and surprising touches of humor, including a cab driver who critiques the filmmaker for making boring movies and a comically authoritarian tour guide.
Like this film’s heroine, Ying was forced into exile, and his family harassed, because of his 2012 film, When Night Falls, a scathing critique of China’s justice system. A Family Tour examines the personal and political effects of exile by filtering Ying’s experience through his characters: a daughter who can never go home, a mother whose only connection to her daughter has been through video chats, and a husband (Pete Teo) who, as a Hong Kong native, enjoys a freedom that neither woman will ever know. Following the film’s debut at the Locarno Film Festival in August, Variety’s Jay Weissberg declared that “this intelligently affecting story of exile and displacement is Ying Liang’s most highly polished film to date . . . casting a sharp, unflattering light on Chinese society deformed by decades of Party rule.” (Dir.: Ying Liang, Taiwan/Hong Kong/Singapore/Malaysia, 2018, 108 min., DCP, Mandarin, Taiwanese, and Cantonese with English subtitles)
Ying Liang was born in 1977 in Shanghai. Educated at Chongqing Film Academy and Beijing Normal University, he made his feature film debut in 2005 with Taking Father Home, which won awards at Tokyo Filmex, the Hong Kong International Film Festival, and the San Francisco International Film Festival. Subsequent films have won awards at the Jeonju International Film Festival, Singapore International Film Festival, and Locarno International Film Festival. He currently lives in exile in Hong Kong.