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SFFILM Festival

Black Coal, Thin Ice

Directed by Diao Yinan

China/Hong Kong | 106

27 Apr
Mon, Apr 27, 2015 at 6:00 pm PT


A frosty noir about a surly cop whose life is forever changed by one particularly gruesome and maddening case, Black Coal, Thin Ice is both tense whodunnit and layered character study—the latter thanks to a scorching lead performance by Liao Fan. He’s surly cop Zhang, who’s just unsuccessfully tried to convince his wife not to divorce him when he’s called to investigate a slew of body parts tossed into coal stacks across 100 miles. A botched arrest caps the hunt for a suspect, and Zhang’s police career, and we stumble five years into the future to find him a bloated drunk, going through the motions at a security job he hates. When history begins repeating itself amid a particularly snowy winter, Zhang is drawn back into the dark realm of an apparent serial killer and takes an interest in an enigmatic woman who is somehow connected to the string of murders. Writer-director Diao Yinan’s crime drama took top honors at the Berlin Film Festival last year (Liao won the acting prize as well), and it’s not hard to see why; Black Coal is a carefully plotted thriller packed with unexpected twists and offbeat moments, and, in one memorable scene, offers a potent reminder that an ice skate is absolutely a deadly weapon. —Cheryl Eddy

Director Diao Yinan

Writer-director Diao Yinan is a graduate of Beijing’s Central Academy of Drama; his screenwriting credits include Zhang Yang’s Shower. His previous films include the Cannes-screened Uniform and Night Train. After Black Coal, Thin Ice took the top prize in Berlin, Diao (who lost the directing award to Boyhood’s Richard Linklater) called the experience “a dream come true.”



Film Details

Language Mandarin

Original Language Title Bai ri yan huo

Year 2014

Runtime 106

Country China/Hong Kong

Director Diao Yinan

Producer Vivian Qu, Wan Juan

Writer Diao Yinan

Editor Yang Hongyu

Cinematographer Dong Jinsong

Music Wen Zi

Cast Liao Fan, Gwei Lun Mei, Wang Xuebing