Return to Dust
In rural Gaotai county, two lonely, middle-aged outcasts are pushed into an arranged marriage by their families. Ma (Wu Renlin) is a humble farmer with little to offer his timid and sickly wife, Cao (Hai Qing), except for a small abandoned house on a barren patch of land. From just a few seeds, their newly planted crops take root and flourish; and similarly, an unexpected bond between the two starts to blossom. As seasons pass their dedication to each other grows stronger, but change and adversity soon threaten the idyllic existence they share.
A tender tale about the transformative nature of love, RETURN TO DUST is an “absorbing, beautifully framed drama” (Variety) from acclaimed director Li Ruijun that became a surprise box office hit domestically in China.
- Wu Renlin
- Hai Qing
Bonus Short Film
Hair Tie, Egg, Homework Books
Directed by Luo Runxiao
China | 15 minutes
Chinese with English subtitles
Model student Lin Yuqi is assigned to give a speech about her family at a parents open house event but after a run-in with a mischievous classmate she starts having second thoughts.
- "Critic's Pick! [Q]uietly heartbreaking.... [A] touching portrait of love and resiliency...with superb performances by Wu Renlin and Hai Qing...."
- "China’s leadership has a history of suppressing art that spotlights the failings of its ruling class and ideology, which is exactly what Li’s film does...That he succeeds without making it feel like homework — which is to say beautifully, humanely — is presumably what made the film so threatening."
- "Return To Dust [features] beautifully-judged performances that radiate warmth and encourage empathy. It marks Li Ruijun as a significant cinematic talent."
- "This poetic tale of an arranged marriage which blossoms into a true partnership is Li’s most affecting and accessible work to date."
- "An unhurried but hypnotic portrait of two discards thrown together to scratch out a life as they weather the seasons."
- "“Return to Dust” is an absorbing, beautifully framed drama...."
- "Every frame of this movie is exquisitely considered without seeming fussy or stagy. It helps, maybe, that the film is about humble people in humble settings...RETURN TO DUST abounds in small poetic touches from the director and his lead characters."
- "A fine-grained, unsentimental paean to a couple’s fortitude."
- "The strength of Return to Dust lies in its depiction of the love between Youtie and Guiying...Add to this that the movie is gorgeously shot, with beautiful uses of color...If the film takes minutes to get going, by the end, viewers will likely feel that the filmmaker hasn’t wasted a minute."
- "A gorgeous piece of cinema...."
- "It’s an intimate drama that... moves you with its warm humanist core.... Both leads are remarkable."
- "Wu Renlin, who stars as the farmer, shines in a deeply humane film that also deals with the conflict between rural traditions and increasing modernisation."
- "Weihua Wang’s elegant camerawork... proves irresistible. While “Return to Dust” envisions an entire country in microcosm, it also reflects how a relationship can open up the entire world...."
- "It’s a tremendously graceful piece of filmmaking, with a light, compassionate touch. All the pieces come together in a richly satisfying way...."
- "In the history of film, there have been hundreds of movies that deal with relationships between men and women. I would be hard-pressed to find a better film that deals with two people who had an understanding of each other as this one does. "
Awards & Recognition
Berlin Int'l. Film Festival
Karlovy Vary Int'l. Film Festival
Udine Far East Film Festival
Toronto Int. Film Festival
Chicago Int. Film Festival
Mill Valley Film Festival