Shun Li and the Poet
Italy, 2011, 100 Minute Running Time
Documentary filmmaker Andrea Segre’s first narrative feature explores the themes of immigration and cultural identity as he follows an unlikely friendship. Shun Li (the delicate Zhao Tao), a Chinese woman working to settle a debt that would enable her young son to join her, works in a textile factory in Rome. She is suddenly transferred to a sleepy fishing village, where she lives in shared housing and tends bar at a café where locals have been regulars for years.
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It is there that she meets Bepi (acclaimed Croatian actor Rade Serbedzija), a Slavic fisherman who is something of a poet. Bepi and Shun Li strike up an unusual friendship—they share a common bond of the struggles of immigration despite the fact that their cultures couldn’t be more different. Both find a solace in each other that provides an escape from solitude. Shun Li hails from a long line of fishermen, and Bepi loves that her village holds a poets’ festival. Their relationship remains platonic—before it can be explored further it is stymied by both Shun Li’s Chinese employers and prejudiced locals wary of “intruders.”
In Shun Li and the Poet, Segre employs the lagoon surrounding the town as a slow-moving, melancholic character that bridges China and Italy as a “cradle of identities.” With this backdrop, he explores ideas surrounding individual and cultural identity, and the changes that happen to a rural area when there is an influx of immigration.
- REBECCA CARO
DIRECTOR: Andrea Segre
Editor: Sara Zavarise
Screenwriter: Marco Pettenello, Andrea Segre
Cinematographer: Luca Gigazzo
Principal Cast: Zhao Tao, Rade Sherbedgia, Marco Paolini, Roderto Citran, Giuseppe Battiston