Wednesday, November 8, 2023 - 7:00 pm

Cao Fei’s story feels like a modernist rendition of the classic Abraham and Issac, only where Abraham’s faith in God is replaced with the computer scientist’s blind faith in progress, at the expense of his son. Cao Fei’s question is then this: is it a sacrifice worth making?
Günseli Yalcinkaya, Dazed

Cao Fei’s political allegory is set in a research lab in the fictional town of Nova, where, thanks to a short-lived rapprochement between Mao and Stalin, Chinese and Soviet computer scientists are close to bringing their joint project to fruition: a revolutionary digital platform that can not only calculate data but also travel through space and time. The end of Stalinism leaves the love child of the two countries’ lead scientists in the custody of his Chinese father, who uses his son to test the unfinished prototype, with disastrous results. The boy becomes stranded on the other side of the digital portal, adrift in cyberspace, his body and surroundings dissolving and re-aggregating in a sea of data. Ahead of him is a 40-year trek across the span of China’s past, present, and future socialisms in search of a way back; if he fails, the portal will close, trapping him forever within virtual reality. In Mandarin with English subtitles.

China 2019
Cao Fei
97 min. DCP

Programmed by Michèle Smith and introduced by Mila Zuo, an associate professor and scholar-filmmaker in Cinema Studies at the Department of Theatre and Film at UBC

“Nova is clearly made with humans in mind but is somehow unfit for their habitation … Cao’s world is one of failed intentions, as if human action were now anachronistic upon its heavily developed surface.”
Theo Carnegy-Tan, The Quietus

“What do we do to those we love—our children in particular—when we keep our sights trained on the future?”
Hettie Judah, The Guardian

Image courtesy of the artist, Vitamin Creative Space, and Sprüth Magers