Dir/scr: Ning Jingwu. China. 2008. 103mins.
Billed as a coming-of-age film, Lala’s Gun is much more concerned with the Miao tribe of south-east China, one of the country’s largest minorities. Tracking a young boy as he hunts for his long-lost father, this is more concerned with local customs, costumes, habits and traditions than any one character it features. Shot in the tribe’s own Hmong language, this will appeal to thematic festivals but given its thin story, some substantial tightening is necessary before tackling the marketplace.
According to the Miao tradition, a boy turns into a man when he reaches the age of 15. On this day, after a prayer to the tree his parents planted on the day he was born, the boy’s father is supposed to present him with a gun, the symbol of his adulthood. But Lala (Wang Jishuai) who will soon turn 15, has been brought up by his grandmother after his mother’s death and his father has disappeared. Despite the fact that his grandmother has promised him a gun, and even the local gunsmith has said he’ll donate one if all else fails, Lala sets out to find father.
Wandering from one Miao village to another, armed only with the knowledge that his father has a certain type of tattoo on his back, Lala crosses spectacular landscapes and meets a variety of characters. Going back home at the end of his fruitless expedition, he meets an older friend with whom he had left the village a month earlier. His pal was headed for Guangzhou to be a security guard but now he is returning, put off by the frenetic pace there.
That the non-pro actors here have a certain clumsiness is only to be expected and characters sometimes look a bit too dressed up for their daily routines. The plot is pretty arbitrary throughout, Lala’s choice of one direction over another a mystery. But the camera work is good, the landscapes breathtaking and the film is informative about the little-known Miao people.
Beijing Spring Thunder Films
Three Dots Entertainment
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