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To Live to Sing

Huo zhe chang zhe
dir. Johnny Ma
China 2019, 104’
Polish premiere
Awards and festivals
Cannes IFF 2019; Shanghai IFF 2019 Asian New Talent Award - najlepszy film, najlepsza aktorka; Guanajuato IFF 2019 - wyróżnienie
China 2019
Duration: 104’
director: Johnny Ma
screenplay: Johnny Ma
cinematography: Matthias Delvaux
editing: Ana Godoy
music: Jongho You, Jimin Kim
sound: Guido Berenblum
cast: Gan Guidan, Zhao Xiaoli, Yan Xihu, Yan Huanghe, Deng Xiurong, Liu Min
producer: Wu Xianjian, Jing Wang
executive producer: Deng Jie, Ming Zi
production: Shenzhen Ming Culture Communication Co. Ltd, IMAGE X Productions, Shanghai Tongyue Industrial Co Ltd
source of print: Films Boutique
language: Chinese
colouration: colour

Film description

A small theater in the suburbs of Chengdu is intended for demolition along with nearby buildings to make way for a new housing estate. Zhao Li, the leader of the Sichuan opera troupe, deals with government institutions as well as the internal disintegration within the group of actors who are starting to look for more stable and profitable work. Opening a restaurant with the extremely popular Sichuan hot pot and entertaining customers with a traditional performance of "face-changing" seems to be an increasingly alluring alternative, although it would mean abandoning opera art. Every evening, the troupe reenacts classic plays for an audience consisting of elderly people, while bulldozers systematically change their homes into rubble. The transience and fragility of the world blurs the boundary between stage fiction and everyday life ...

After the outstanding Berlinale-premiered debut, "Old Stone" (2016), Johnny Ma in "To Live to Sing" returns to the topic of the confrontation between the individual and the state institution, the conflict of tradition with modernity and human morality with extreme capitalism. The director observes the phenomenon of accelerated modernization in China, rendering the characters of his films completely unsuitable to the fast-paced, centrally-imposed changes. In "To Live to Sing" fatalistic Sichuan opera plays narratives penetrate the reality of the main character. Devoid of fantastic costume, the story touches upon the unchanging aspects of life in China and the process of accepting transience.

Maja Korbecka

Johnny Ma

Born in 1982 in Shanghai, Chinese-Canadian film director and screenwriter. At the age of 10 he moved to Canada with his parents. Under their influence, he decided to study finance and commerce, but he did not give up his dream of working in the cultural sector, attending theater classes. After graduation he worked in the fashion industry for several years, which enabled him to become financially stable. After a journey through China he decided to start studying film at Columbia University in New York. In 2013, his short film "A Grand Canal" caught the attention of film critics and festival programmers. His first feature film, "Old Stone," won the Best Canadian First Feature Film at the 2016 Toronto International Film Festival. His sophmore film, "To Live to Sing", premiered in the Directors' Forthnight section at 2019 Cannes IFF. 


2010 The Robbery (k.m.)
2011 The Genius from Quintino (k.m.)
2013 A Grand Canal (k.m.)
2016 Old Stone / Lao shi
2019 Żyć, śpiewać / Huo zhe chang zhe / To Live to Sing

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