Li Yu's 'Buddha Mountain' Brings Light to China's Social Issues

Li Yu’s latest film “Buddha Mountain” opens up a discussion about China’s most controversial social issues. If you haven’t heard of Li Yu, she has become one of China's most celebrated filmmakers by pushing the envelope with her films and bring real-life situations in China as influences. Li’s 2007 film “Lost in Beijing” was the first of her work I had seen. The movie follows four people whose lives clash when an unexpected pregnancy happens between a girl and her boss who raped her. The film has comedic moments, but it also excellently captures the emotion and passion behind relationships. It unearthed the poignancy that was missing in many Asian films and addressed Chinese desires to reap the benefits of China's burgeoning wealth.

Like her other films, “Buddha Mountain” follows the lives of three young friends who decide to not attend college and live life as it comes. The film takes place in Chengdu in the Sichuan province, where the 2008 earthquake left the region in devastation. The friends eventually decide to move out and rent an apartment from an aging Chinese opera performer who lost her son and becomes a mother-like figure to the friends. This addresses the issues China’s youth faces today as the generation of the one-child policy, which was enforced in the 80s. Li says the policy has produced a generation of "self-centered" children who tend to be irresponsible." While the Chinese government hasn’t always approved of Li’s films (they pulled “Lost in Beijing” from mainland cinemas only five days after its release), she has managed to stay true to her work and re-work some of the scenes in “Buddha Mountain," which opened recently in Hong Kong, but it has already generated international acclaim and earned 17 million yuan ($2.6 million). It first premiered in the Tokyo International Film Festival in October, where it received two awards for best artistic contribution and best actress Fan Bingbing. Although “Buddha Mountain” isn’t playing in New York movie theaters just yet, you can catch the trailer here, with stars Fan Bingbing, Chen Po Lin, and Fei Long.