In 1930s China, an elderly street performer Wang (Zhu) travels the Sichuan province entertaining crowds with the ancient art of silk mask “face-changing”. In need of a male heir to continue his profession, Wang takes on an orphan boy and names him Doggie (Zhou). Anxious to keep his independence, he turns down employment offers from famous female impersonator Master Liang (Zhao). When Doggie’s true identity is revealed, the customs of the time- and Wang’s disappointment- lead to some startling developments.
Former studio head Wu returned to China after a long hiatus in America due to the Tiananmen Square revolt, and produced this gentle fable about savoring tradition while embracing change. Little Zhou learned the necessary skills in the Xian Acrobatic Troupe, while Zhao in real life is a celebrated opera star. With familiar broad strokes, but a gorgeously rich visual palette and heartbreaking performances, Wu challenges China’s sexist history with cinematic fluidity and simplicity. This emotionally powerful drama won many awards and is a delightful introduction for young children to the joys of foreign film. Still, grown-ups should love it too!