August 17, 2007
Studio: New Yorker Films
Director: Zhang Yang
MPAA Rating: N/A
Screenwriters: Shangjun Cai, Xin Huo
Starring: Joan Chen, Zhang Fan, Ge Gao, Wang Haidi, Zifeng Liu
Copyright Holder: N/A
In the years leading up to 1976, when The Cultural Revolution and the reign of the notorious Gang of Four were coming to an end, Zhang Gengnian was an absentee father. Condemned to spending six years in a rural Cadre School - a labor camp where he was to be politically "re-educated" - Gengnian missed Xiangyang's formative years. At nine-years-old, Xiangyang is having the time of his life. Nearly free of adult supervision, he spends his days mischievously roaming the streets. Gengnian, however, has his own idea about the direction that his son's life should take and, now that he's been released, he's determined to make up for lost time. Most particularly, he wants Xiangyang to learn to draw, but it isn't long before Xiangyang starts to chafe under his father's constant rules and orders, quickly giving rise to tensions between father and son that won't soon go away. By 1987, Xiangyang has become an accomplished draughtsman, but his conflicts with his father seem set in stone. While he dreams of escaping his father's clutches by running away with his girlfriend to Guangzhou, Xiangyang remains stuck at home, forced to study for the university entrance exams. Xiangyang has no idea how far his father will go to control his life in the name of "what's best" for him, although he'll one day discover the hurtful truth that his parents have taken away the one thing that was truly his. Twelve years later, Beijing has become a new city, with redevelopment projects stretching to the horizon and demolition of the last remaining alleyways and courtyard housing in progress. Xiangyang has married a girl named Han Jing and his burgeoning career as a painter is about to take off with a big solo exhibition of his work. However an unplanned pregnancy that both Han Jing and Xiangyang are determined to abort leaves Gengnian reeling. Erupting over his son's "selfish" decision to deny him a grandchild, Gengnian fails to appear at the opening of Xiangyang¹s exhibition. Days later Xiangyang does find his father secretly visiting the exhibition and praising his work, but Gengnian soon disappears, leaving behind only a revelatory audio tape for his son. "Sunflower" is a powerful and touching look at the compelling inner dynamics of one post-Cultural Revolution family in Beijing and their struggle over thirty years to adjust to each other as the fabric, politics, and social mores of Chinese society change ever so rapidly.