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Great Happiness

2h 39m Drama 2020

Language: Mandarin with English Subtitles


UK Premiere

Synopsis Great Happiness is an ensemble film centering on three good friends who have grown up together in Xining, the capital of Qinghai province. They have their own visions of a bright future within this ever-expanding city. Belonging to the generation born at the time of the one-child policy, the three young men are confronted with triple challenges: the frustrations of pursuing personal ambitions, the burden of supporting a large family, and the overpowering presence of social expectation.

Director’s Statement Like the protagonists in the film, I am an only child myself. I wanted to explore the question of how my generation should respond to modernization - to a time in which cities can seemingly be copied and pasted across the country.

But despite this serious premise, I don’t want to just depict suffering: life gives you unexpected pleasures all the time. So, for all its grayness and absurdity, I would still define this film as a comedy.

Curators’ Notes This is an underrated fiction film exploring Xining, located in northwest China near Tibet. In contrast to its reputation as a rural environment, director Yi’ao Wang uses long shots to portray Xining’s high-rises and transportation networks, highlighting the city’s progress in urbanisation.

Under this significantly transformed city, however, the director also uses a realist style to depict three protagonists facing their own difficulties, as their unreachable desires encounter harsh material reality. Under the facade of modernity, tremendous pressures and troubles simmer beneath. As only children, the protagonists are torn between family pressures, peer competition, and social expectations, making this film an ironic and resigned critique of society.

Festivals & Awards

2020 Tallinn Black Nights Film Festival First Feature Competition ​Best Film


Yi’ao Wang


Rong Xiao


Lesi Wei