An unhappy young woman is transported to the gritty hinterlands of Venice by her Chinese gang masters. This contemporary snapshot of Italy is a slice-of-life on the meeting of two cultures.
Italy, 2011. 100 minutes. Language: Italian. Cert: Club. Director: Io sono Li. Starring: Zhao Tao, Rade Serbedzija, Marco Paolini
Many recent European films have chronicled the social and personal consequences of the recent wave of immigration to Europe, but few with the delicacy and insight of Andre Segre’s lovely film. Brought to Italy by a “broker” who she’s slowly paying off while saving money to bring across her son, Shun Li is sent from her factory job to a bar in Chioggia, a small town in the Veneto lagoon. There she strikes up a friendship with Bepi, a fisherman nicknamed “the Poet,” himself a representative of an earlier immigration to Italy from Eastern Europe. The two come to share a special understanding, and their relationship transforms them both.
Segre effectively draws us into this “immigrant world,” not simply to expose its unfairness but to reveal the ways in which immigrants create their own special support systems. An unusual and compelling first feature deservedly selected for the Director’s Fortnight section of the Venice Film Festival, SHUN LI AND THE POET has a terrific central performance by Zhao Tao, Jia Zhang-ke’s muse in films like Platform and The World. The film takes the essence of an all-too-real situation (the recent influx of Chinese immigrants into the environs of Venice) that is also simultaneously a new filmic look at aspects of Venetian life, refreshingly naturalistic and free of picture postcard tourism. – San Diego Italian Film Festival