Huo Meng graduated from the Communication University of China. Before trying his hand in a long form, he made a short film “Hongguang’s Holiday” (2008), which won the Best Short Film award at the 15th Beijing University Student Film Festival. His other etude, “My Best Friends” (2015), was selected for the 7th Macau International Film Festival. During making “Crossing the Border”, his debut feature, he successfully combined the roles of a director, producer, editor, and a scriptwriter. His movie has been presented in line-ups of several festivals. At Beijing, it received the audience’s award, while at the Pingyao it got laurels for the best director, best actor and was also noticed by the youth jury. Now it is screened during Ulju Mountain Film Festival in NETPAC section.
Meng Huo tells a simple story that follows parables’ structure with its modesty and wisdom. A seven-year-old Ninging (Yunhu Li) spends some unexpected time with his 70-year-old grandfather, Li Fuchang (Taiyi Yang) who lives in a village. The boy’s father is busy with work, and the family is expecting the birth of Ninging’s little sister. Initially, Ninging doesn’t seem to be happy with that his exile and feels a bit bored. His grandfather, however, gives him a lot of care and attention, answering all kinds of questions. One day, news arrives that Li Fuchang’s friend, who lives in a distant town, is seriously ill. Saddened with this turn of fate, as in their youth they shared a close bond, the grandfather decides to pay his ailing comrade a visit. With stoicism and calmness that come with age, he packs a portable table and stools, a stock of supplies, and takes his grandson on the trailer of his three-wheeler. The journey they sets off for reminds of the one that Alvin Straight took on his riding lawn-mowerin David Lynch’s “The Straight Story”.
As expected in a road movie, the duo meets various people on the road, who share their stories and benefit from their conversations with Ninging and Li Fuchang. The important parts of the script are the dialogues between the child and his grandfather, carrying significant philosophical depth. The topics revolve around life and death –what is impressive and smart, as both the boy and the elder represent the utmost points in the primeval cycle of nature.
“Crossing the Roads” is a slow-paced, slice-of-life, and tight-budget kind of movie. Despite subtly bringing up the subject of difficult times of Cultural Revolution (which seems to be a generational trauma still influencing the memories and lives of those who experienced it), it manages to stay a heartwarming, positive tale. It also is an interesting insight into generational differences in the modern Chinese society, as the characters of the boy, his father and grandfather mirror different age groups, with various hopes, memories, and experiences. The image of society in the movie still seems patriarchal. We see only male bonds, hear about male fears, and woman characters are absent from the screen.
Last but not least, this journey is a lesson for both the boy and the old man. Li Fuchang, bonding with his grandchild, realizes the mistakes he made as a parent. It is never too late to learn.