April 6 2018 – Knife in the Clear Water

Directed by Wang Xuebo
Produced by Wang Xuebo, Wang Zijian, Chen Cheng, and Chen Jian
Fiction, 2016, 93 minutes, Mandarin with English subtitles

Friday, April 6 at 4pm at the Brattle Theatre
40 Brattle Street, Cambridge, MA 02138
FREE and open to the public | Brattle event page | Facebook event

Following the film, all are welcome to take part in a post-screening discussion led by Peng Hai, Ph.D. Candidate in Chinese Film History at Harvard University.

Peng’s research interests include cinematic representations of real social geographies in Chinese films and the interactions between popular social discourses and filmic productions in China. KNIFE IN THE CLEAR WATER forms a primary part of his dissertation research for its representations of the people and landscapes associated with the Hui Muslim minority in contemporary China.

Co-presented by Crows & Sparrows and the Emergent Visions Film Series of the Fairbank Center for Chinese Studies at Harvard University in conjunction with the Harvard Yenching Indigeneity and Environment Symposium.

About the Film:


In the far mountains of Ningxia province, the old Ma Zishan and his son start mourning his wife. Loved by everyone in the village and the family, the son wants to sacrifice their only bull for her 40 days disappearance ceremony. Zishan isn’t against it, but his sorrow and his love for the old animal make him wonder. Even his prayers and the Imam don’t seem to erase his doubts. Until one morning the old bull stops eating and drinking. Has he seen the knife in the clear water?

Winner of the New Currents Award at the 2016 Busan International Film Festival, the Best Director Award at the 2016 Marrakech International Film Festival, the NETPAC Award and  Special Jury Mention for Cinematography at the 2016 Hawaii International Film Festival. Nominated for the Halekulani Golden Orchid Award at the  2016 Hawaii International Film Festival and the UNESCO Cultural Diversity Award at the 2016 Asia Pacific Screen Awards.

Official Selection of the Marrakech International Film Festival, the Busan International Film Festival, the Vancouver International Film Festival, the Hawaii International Film Festival , Tokyo FILMEX, the International Film Festival Rotterdam, the Gøteborg  Film Festival, and the Hong Kong International Film Festival among others.

About the Filmmaker:

WANG Xuebo was born in December 1984. He started his film career as a producer, with films like Pema Tseden’s THARLO. The film Premiered in Venice in 2015 and won many awards including at Tokyo FilmEx, Golden Horse awards, APSA, Vesoul. Started in 2010, the project of KNIFE IN THE CLEAR WATER was completed in 2016, and is WANG Xuebo’s first feature.

Director, KNIFE IN THE CLEAR WATER, 2016, feature
Producer, FREE AND EASY, 2016, feature directed by GENG Jun
Producer, THARLO, 2015, feature directed by Pema Tseden,
Producer, THE HAMMER AND THE SICKLE ARE SLEEPING, 2013, feature directed by GENG Jun

An old farmer has difficulty giving up his bull for sacrifice in “Knife in the Clear Water,” a somber elegy richly lensed like a rotating gallery of oil paintings. While news related to Muslim ethnic groups in China has largely focused on Uighurs and their separatist movement, this minimalist debut by Wang Xuebo affords a rare glimpse into the Hui, a Chinese-speaking Muslim groupthe final shots take one’s breath away, transporting audiences into a symbolic realm where the old man’s inner landscape mirrors the barren, snow-blanketed exterior, inviting viewers to wonder whether he is at peace or has his heart frozen after losing everything.”  —Variety

Knife in the Clear Water is an incredibly heartfelt and beautifully tragic portrayal of a patriarch’s unspoken bond with his bull… Wang’s audacious vision is apparent from the very start, as the film unspools in the boxed-in 4:3 ratio. Defying the more common practice of screening windswept rural landscapes in the widest proportions possible, Wang is perhaps making a statement that Knife is no mere exploitation of exotic geographical and cultural vistas. Based on Shi Shuqing’s novel, this film is first and foremost a portrait of a man and his humanity – a character in his twilight years struggling with the death of his wife and then his best animal friend.” —The Hollywood Reporter