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The Ark

1h 36m Documentary 2020

Language: Mandarin, with English subtitles


UK Premiere

Provided By

Synopsis While the first reports of the Covid-19 outbreak in Wuhan are heard on the news, Xiuhua, who is suffering from a different disease, is fighting for her life. The doctors may have given up on her, but her children and grandchildren haven’t, and they’re doing everything possible to keep her with them for a little while longer.

Director’s Statement I learned about my grandma’s critical condition on the phone, right before the Chinese New Year. Her days were numbered, so I decided to document it. It was a rare occasion to have all her five adult children come together in a state of emotions. My mind was so occupied with my grandma’s illness, and I felt both despaired and useless. The Ark is a very personal film. It delves into the intermingled relationships between individuals and family, as well as life and faith. With the inevitability of her death approaching, I felt lost and hollowed in a void. I documented the realities before my own eyes.

Curators’ Note It is a powerful piece of work documenting the director Dan Wei’s grandma’s illness just at the outbreak of Covid-19. The film calmly reveals a severe illness, sudden death, and how the director’s family reacts to grandma’s disease. Meanwhile, it also constantly shows news reporting the coronavirus outbreak. The black-and-white format intensifies the depressing atmosphere.

This film combines personal life with a global pandemic. It shows the viewers a perspective of witnessing the death of a person in the midst of a pandemic, revealing how impermanent life is. Daniel Wei ruthlessly uses handheld cameras and close-up shots to show his grandma’s painful facial expression, making this film very authentic, depressing, and powerful.

Festivals & Awards

2020 International Documentary Film Festival Amsterdam – Luminous Section


Daniel Wei


Shan Li





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