Io sono Li (Shun Li and the Poet)
Autumn 2013 Features series
Sunday, November 10, 2013 at 4:00pm
Sunday, November 10, 2013 at 7:00pm
Directed by Andrea Segre
Screenplay by Marco Petenello and Andrea Segre
Starring Marco Paolini, Rade Serbedzija, Tao Zhao, Rade Serbedzija, Marco Paolini, and Tao Zhao
Rated NR ·
France / Italy
Mandarin and Italian
Io sono Li (Shun Li and the Poet)
Andrea Segre directed his first full-length drama after a career in documentary filmmaking. Shun Li and the Poet is a detailed examination of an encounter between different cultures and portrays normally hidden realities.
Shun Li (Zhao Tao, winner of the 2011 David Di Donatello for Best Actress), a Chinese immigrant in her thirties who has worked in a textile workshop on the outskirts of Rome for several years, is working hard desperate to obtain the documents that would allow her son, currently living with his grandfather, to come to Italy. When she is suddenly transferred to Chioggia, a small but beautiful town in the Venetian lagoon, to work as a bartender, her life is sent into confusing turmoil. She still has much to repay her brokers, and her stable employment might not to be so stable, having to learn new skills and be a stranger all over again.
She tends to the requests of the regulars, mostly local fishermen and pensioners, as best she can. Amongst them is Bepi (Rade Serbedzija, The Quiet American, Eyes Wide Shut), or as his friends call him, “The Poet,” a recently retired Slavic fisherman who emigrated decades prior. He is drawn to Shun Li’s ever-present sense of contentment and joy, masking her sadness and loneliness. After discovering a mutual interest in poetry, they gradually begin to reveal more about one another. Bepi invites Shun Li out to his fishing hut, and Shun Li shows him photos of her father, also a fisherman, and her son. They share quiet talks about their cultures and families and bond over a mutual feeling of loneliness and reciprocated offers of kindness.
Their encounter is a poetic escape from solitude, a silent dialogue between cultures that are different, yet not more distant. It is an odyssey into the deep heart of a lagoon, which can be both the mother and cradle of identities, which never keep still. But the friendship between Shun Li and Bepi upsets both the Chinese and local communities, who interfere with this new voyage, which they are perhaps simply too afraid of.
Shot by renowned DP, Luca Bigazzi, this elegantly composed picture displays immense affection for the Italian setting, and is a tender human drama with gentle activism for multiculturalism.
“Shun Li and the Poet is a compelling drama and a tranquil, pleasing character study that gradually evolves from a poetic tale of unexpected friendship into a tragedy of doomed affair, prejudice and cultural identity and difference. Remarkably assured filmmaking from first time writer/director Andrea Segre sensitively explores the film’s beautiful setting, rich characters – drawing fine performances from his two leads – and explored social issues.” (Andy Buckle, The Film Emporium)
“Sometimes proper casting does much of the work in a film. Tao Zhao couldn’t speak Italian when she came to make the movie, and that fits the story. Rade Serbedgia as a workingman near the end of a long life, walks steadily across the village’s waterfront, wearily smoking as if that’s a task he has been set. There is not much happiness in the lives of these two people, but they have each other.” (Roger Ebert, RogerEbert.com)