Return to Dust

Golden Bear
Berlin International Film Festival
It’s a gorgeous, quietly affecting film that finds an unassuming beauty in this simple life in rural China.


Return to Dust

In the small, rural village in Gaotai, two lonely, middle-aged people—Cao, a timid woman suffering from chronic illness and a disability, and Ma, an unassuming farmer with little to his name—are pushed into an arranged marriage by their respective families. Cast aside as burdens, Cao and Ma's relationship is tepid at first but warms as the two spend their days fixing up an abandoned house on their small patch of land. Invigorated by a shared purpose and the all-consuming nature of farm work, the couple's bond grows. However, in the dwindling rural communities of the Gansu province surrounding them, farmers are being incentivized by local government to demolish their homes, uproot themselves and move to the cities. With their livelihood disappearing, the couple attempts to build a new life together with continued patience, determination and devotion for their home and each another.

Featuring beautiful lead performances by Wu Renlin and Hai Qing and meticulously shot over the course of a year,
Return to Dust is "an absorbing, beautifully framed drama." (Variety). Li Ruijun's humanist approach to documenting the rapid urbanization of his beloved native region and its people prove him to be one of the leading figures of Chinese independent cinema.
Not Rated
Drama, Romance
Li Ruijun
Li Ruijun
Wu Renlin, Hai Qing
Nominee, Golden Bear, Berlin International Film Festival
David Rooney, Hollywood Reporter

The uncontrolled urbanization of rural China and the displacement of agrarian communities form the melancholy socio-cultural backdrop of Return to Dust, an unhurried but hypnotic portrait of two discards thrown together to scratch out a life as they weather the seasons. A lyrical slice of Chinese ...

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