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Wisdom Tooth

1h 44m Drama 2019

Language: Mandarin with English Subtitles


UK Premiere

Synopsis Xi Gu is about to lose her job because of her undocumented citizenship status. While using all her social connections to get official registration papers, she also faces another challenge: getting along with her brother’s new girlfriend, Qingchang.

As winter sets in and temperatures plunge, the relationship between Xi, her brother Liang, and his girlfriend becomes increasingly unclear, threatening to freeze over itself. Meanwhile, more trouble brews as a dead body is found floating in the sea, and a mysterious tape repeatedly brings Xi to flit back and forth across the boundary of youth and adulthood. What she doesn’t know is that she is about to lose everything.

Director’s Statement “What has been will be again, what has been done will be done again; there is nothing new under the sun.” — Ecclesiastes 1:9

Although God may see the world this way, it’s impossible for us as individuals to look down on the world from a higher plane. From our individual perspective, each day is new. This is especially true when it comes to our emotions, as we are unable to truly experience the emotions of another.

I meditate on the complexity of human emotions in the film through the brother-sister bond. What makes them a family? What makes them accompany each other in the process of growing up? Wisdom Tooth is a carefully constructed depiction of the limit of their youthful energy, as it becomes repressed and distorted by cruel reality. It is not only the fantasy of youth which is crushed, but also the desire for the world.

This is not a simple coming-of-age story. Growing up is never a simple process. Within different milieus and destinies, each has their own gloom and disquietude. But growing up also means dispelling the clouds.

Curators’ Notes The film takes place in Yichun, a city in Heilongjiang Province located in the far Northeast of China. This snowy place is also director Ming Liang’s hometown. In this film, the director integrates elements of the crime genre within its triangular relationship, in turn rendering Northeast China a dangerous and mysterious place.

Wisdom Tooth captures the trio’s complicated relationships within this desolate environment. As a second child born under the one-child policy, Xi must remain an undocumented individual, making it difficult for her to maintain her job. When she realises that her brother has to leave her, she feels abandoned. Pain and uncertainty not only come to define the characters in the film, but also the marginalised position of the whole Northeast region of China.

Festivals & Awards

Pingyao International Film Festival Roberto Rossellini Awards · Jury Award Fei Mu Awards - Best Director International Film Festival Rotterdam Bright Future Competition Göteborg International Film Festival Ingmar Bergman Competition 44th Hong Kong International Film Festival Young Cinema Competition (Chinese Language) - Best Director & Best Actor


Ming Liang


Yang Sun