In this idiosyncratic animation film by Lei, the director’s tragic family past is inventively transformed into a magical fairy tale.

Time & Tickets

In the 1950s, Lei Lei’s grandfather is a young father of three, living in the city of Ningdu. Following the Chairman’s call to learn from farmers, he is forced to go to the countryside and leave behind his sick wife and children. When his wife passes away, he is not allowed to return to Ningdu to live with his children. Heartbroken, he has to send them to an orphanage. Time passes. Lei’s grandfather is now living with a new woman, Jin, and his children. But as a new revolution starts, the family is again in trouble. As the family is shattered, they all wait to be reunited one day.

In this inventive mix of animation and documentary, Lei combines several materials, including brightly coloured clay puppets, propaganda images, surrealist collage, and pop-art animation. Although the turbulent recent history of China is the thread running through this film, the strong, vivacious family takes the foreground. NINGDU is an ode to family, memory, and the reconstruction of family history.

Lei Lei, USA, Netherlands, 2021, 104 min. Mandarin spoken, Dutch subtitles.