Along a sleepy Hunan riverside, two delinquent boys experience a summer of love and violence in Yang Heng’s visually stunning debut.
Ali and Xiao Yu are two teenage rebels idling away their days along the banks of a river in Jishou, a quiet town in Hunan province. They steal motorbikes, bully and rob kids, sing karaoke and get into fist fights outside the local internet bar. But their rough exterior belies a deeper romanticism, and a tenderness unfolds between them and their teenage loves. As one day bleeds into the next in this impoverished rural setting, it becomes apparent that these sun-baked days of misspent youth will be the wildest, freest time of their lives.
These everyday subjects are transformed by a groundbreaking digital cinematography unlike any other Chinese film. Alternating deep-focus with bold flatness, Yang explores spaces with a mastery that recalls both classical Chinese and modernist landscape painting. Filmed in a summery palette with images that give off an otherworldly glow, BETELNUT offers a one-of-a-kind vision of what it’s like to be young, poor and free in China.
Pusan International Film Festival – Winner – Best New Asian Filmmaker
Hong Kong International Film Festival – Winner – FIPRESCI Jury Prize
Continents Festival Nantes – Winner – New Vision Award
“Yang is a first-class visual stylist, and BETELNUT is far and away the most exciting debut film I’ve seen all year.”
Michael Sicinski, The University of Houston