Contemporary World Cinema | 2018 | 118 minutes
Stranger Says: This story of a woman besieged with misfortune includes a vein of magical realism. Er Hao has lost three husbands, leading people to believe she is cursed. She struggles to find a new place for herself. But when she starts using her powers to help people, she is labeled a witch with important gifts. Some see her as a person bringing healing and blessings, and others see her as putting dangerous curses on them. But every act has consequences, sometimes what seems like a positive outcome is actually harmful, and vice versa. The snowy, frozen landscape of rural China sets a bleak tone, but the movie has some delightful visual elements and an intriguing feminist story.
SIFF Says:Living in a rural town in China, Erhao finds herself widowed for the third time after a fireworks accident kills her husband and injures her. After her brother-in-law attacks her, she realizes she can no longer stay at the home of her in-laws, and leaves in search of starting a life of her own. Erhao is widely deemed inauspicious and even cursed in the eyes of the villagers, who during these cold winter months, are unwilling to share their home or help her find proper food and shelter. Having no one to depend on but herself, she soon discovers she has magical powers that she can use to her advantage, gaining social power and importance by helping the villagers with their own life problems. Erhao instantly becomes the town's famous shaman, and uses her special skills to make a living. Yet as she helps the village people with their issues day after day, she finds it increasingly impossible to satisfy the need and greed of the community. The debut feature of director Chengjie Cai, THE WIDOWED WITCH explores the painful social issue of the "left-behind child," the injustices centered around women, and superstition in rural China with biting humor.
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