China. 2021. 96 min
Dongzi, a small-town youth, becomes debt-collector, Xi Jun’s henchman in an attempt to pay off his sick father’s hospital bills. A cold and estranged parent-child relationship, an unsettling life on the streets, and an ambiguous relationship with a young woman; in Dongzi’s shoes, this is what it is like to be twenty-one.
Na Jiazuo (China, 1989) graduated from the Beijing Fine Art Academy and then the Beijing Film Academy. Streetwise is his debut film; the film picked up the award for Best Actress at the Pingyao Int’l Film Festival 2021, and was selected for the Un Certain Regard section at the Cannes Film Festival.
This is a story about “struggle”. The film adopts a polarising approach with sudden stops and starts that create the audiovisual experience. What blossoms at night, appears to wither in the daytime. The forgotten corners of the city become the focus of the camera’s lens. The green hills and the river on the one hand, and the streetscapes on the other, are the two most important settings in this film, and it is in these two environments that the characters in the story eat, talk, wander, struggle and coexist with one another.