Directed by Jean-Jacques Annaud
In 1967, as the Cultural Revolution has taken hold, student Chen Zhen (Shaofeng Feng) arrives from Peking to teach the nomadic Mongols how to read and write Chinese instead of just existing in harmony as they have for centuries in an admirable ecosystem involving sheep, horses, grassy plains and wolves.
The city-bred intellectual is soon fascinated by the wolves that Party officials intend to thwart by ordering newborn wolf cubs killed. The tribe’s wise elder Bilig (Basen Zhabu) protests that the wolves will not take kindly to the removal of their offspring but the bureaucrats from central planning think they know better than Mother Nature.
Chen secretly rescues and adopts a wolf cub, creating all sorts of dangerous ripples as, in the time-honored tradition of such stories, the city boy learns far more from the peasants (and even more from the wolves) than the peasants learn from him.
Jean-Jacques Annaud’s adaptation of Jiang Rong’s semi-autobiographical novel is a viscerally powerful drama, with magnificent natural vistas and pulse-pounding action, “Wolf Totem” is an environmentalist allegory. That Annaud should be chosen to direct this project is particularly emblematic of the ‘new’ China, given the fact that he was ‘persona non grata’ in China and his “Seven Years in Tibet” is still banned by Sino officials.
Wolf Totem boasts outstanding production values and rural settings that make it a perfect fit for the Festival’s “Films al Fresco™” experience in of movies in the vineyards.