A film by Alain Mazars.
Produced by Jean Louis Livi.
Selected in International Film Festival of Toronto.
On general release in 2001.
TV broadcast : TPS in 2002 and France 3 in 2004.
Music: Olivier Hutman.
Anne, a divorced woman, mother of a nine-year-old little girl, is going to China to adopt a baby. Very quickly she is filled with doubts, anxieties and fears. She will make unexpected discoveries about the Chinese people she meets during her trip, as well as about her own behavior and her daughter's. In 2000, China is very different from the country she discovered through her friend, a Chinese girl named Ling. It's a new and unknown world, hard to understand. After a conspiracy against her, Anne will become an outlaw.
Alain Mazars lived in China for a year and in his previous movies, LOST SPRING and MY CHINESE SISTER, his primary focus was to introduce us to a country that seemed to be a dreamland. But now the honeymoon is over and HALF OF THE SKY shows us a country that has become like any other, greedy and pragmatic. Only the character of the idealistic student saves the day at the very end. At the same time, Alain Mazars is holding a mirror up to us about our fear of China and our ambiguous desire to adopt.
... a very beautiful movie.
This movie, who has all the qualities of a great documentary, deserves credit for denouncing a painful reality.
Movies released this week: HALF OF THE SKY. «... Anne, a divorced woman who is the mother of a nine-year-old daughter, goes to China to adopt a baby. But the road to adoption is a long one, full of traps, thieves, and corrupt authorities. Caroline Sihol plays very well a woman who is both helpless and very stubborn. As for Alain Mazars, the director, he could become a citizen of China since it's his third movie in the Middle Kingdom.
... Anne, a divorced French woman, arrives in China with her ten-year-old daughter. In Chinese culture, the expression HALF OF THE SKY refers to women. Anne will find her other half in China: another civilization that will transform her, a man with whom she almost has an affair, and another child who will balance her exclusive relationship with her daughter. Alain Mazars' movie is at the border between the feeling of lacking something and the feeling of fullness, the yin and the yang, documentary and fiction. The relationship between Anne and her new adoptive country is very accurately described. The arrival in China is like a reality check and shakes the certainty of the character, but then the movie slowly drifts into a fantasy world, climaxing with the last scene: The limits of the real world disappear little by little. Nicolas Azalbert
... Anne ( played by Caroline Sihol), a divorced woman, comes to China with her ten-year-old daughter to adopt a second child. She will face administrative obstacles and scams. Director Alain Mazars wrote the script with his main actress and is a fine connoisseur of China. His movie is both realistic and genuine.
... LOST SPRING and MY CHINESE SISTER, Alain Mazars' first two movies, also took place in China. In those movies, Alain Mazar, who wasfascinated by the country, showed in a very subtle and modest way the languor, nostalgia and mystery of China. This time, with HALF OF THE SKY, the empirical methodology used to write the script results in a movie that is not an invitation to daydream but has a very solid narrative. Alain Mazars leaves contemplative cinema behind for a very efficient script with no dead time.
... Asian movies are a big hit in festivals and in the media these days, ,and the French public enjoys them more and more. This French movie describes the impossible relationship between our nation and Continental China, which is in full economic and social expansion. With HALF OF THE SKY, Alain Mazars breaks with the French tradition of movies that take place in a familiar environment to present a confrontation, a culture shock with the next world. He shows how France can be perceived by a foreign culture, as if his third movie were an answer to all the Chinese movies the French public can see nowadays. After the movie UNKNOWN CODE (directed by Michael Haneke), we are confronted once again with the topic of the existence of France outside of its borders. HALF OF THE SKY takes us into Chinese daily life and talks about adoption by questioning the Western good conscience. At the center of this movie we find the archetype character of the divorced middle-class woman. Caroline Sihol brilliantly delivers as the mother full of the certainty of her social class. She goes to China to offer a little brother to her daughter. She behaves like a pragmatic missionary, in sharp contrast with the humanitarian ideals of some NGO's. She is not fake, she's a classic leading lady but seems cold, distant and almost too polite. Her integrity will be challenged by administrative obstacles and by the corruption. The tension between her conventional personality and the secrecy of the administration creates a contrast that gives HALF OF THE SKY its modern tone. Just like Rosselini did in his work (STROMBOLI, EUROPE 51), the contrast in the movie direction doesn't come from culture shock but from the immersion of a character in an unknown world and how it changes communication. Anne speaks Chinese and Mazars uses this to bring her character close to perversion. The way the movie is directed also shows this diversion. Right from the first scene, China is not presented in an exotic or touristic way. Anne and her daughter come out from the airport terminal at night and are in a taxi driving through the city. Zhao, their guide, speaks French perfectly, which adds to their confusion regarding the country they just arrived in. From their sordid hotel, Anne and Sophie look at the the sun rising. This vision of a wasteland adds to the feeling of loss. The only landmark for these women will be the trust they can have in people who live here like nomads. Zhao only helps Anne with the administrative procedures for the adoption before disappearing. In an unpredictable way, this man, who is present then absent, becomes the incarnation of a ghost. The viewer expects him to betray the two women at any time. But he is not blatantly doing so. He first builds a friendly relationship with Anne, for example by giving her her papers back unexpectedly. But ultimately he shows his true colors. He is then replaced by Yen, the student, and later Anyi, the gypsy, also joins them. At first there is no reason why these two people would help Anne. They represent parts of the narrative that repeatedly come back, like a counterpoint. Yen reflects the positive side of Zhao, and Anne sees that immediately. One night, she tries to seduce him. Her desire for affection and her desire for maternity are coming together, and she sees in Yen the thoughtful son as well as the devoted man. Zhao could also have been that lover, as he mentioned in the restaurant on the dance floor, a temptation revealed at the end of the movie. Anyi,on the other hand, by mastering the arts of circus and magic gives to the movie an artistic dimension that keeps growing until the end. HALF OF THE SKY starts in a realistic style but ends in a theatrical mode. Anyi's circus, planted in the middle of the wasteland and surrounded by the city, plays a central part at the end with the folk party. The magic tricks of the young gypsy, admired by Anne and Sophie, create an atmosphere of an irrational wonderland. Zhao becomes more monstrous than ever, looking like a wizard. He frees Anne from jail, and it's like she woke up from daydreaming. Then looking at the crowd below from the top of his mast, he understands he has lost the battle. Anne has won her credibility as an adoptive mother. Zhao is now helpless against the greedy police, a gang that wants debts repaid, and a maternal love that goes beyond borders. His triviality erases any obstacles between him and the European woman. Mazars manages to give authenticity to this relationship, breaking it down to emotions, which become a universal language That's also why he uses repetitive music to transcend the scenes of negotiations and when characters are going from one place to another. The music has an accelerating effect on a movie that is already very concise. HALF OF THE SKY cannot be described as belonging to any genre. It's not a drama, and it's not a real thriller, but the editing gives it the energy and pace of a breathless chase. In HALF OF THE SKY the viewer stands between life and death. This border materializes several times onscreen through a depth of field divided into sub-frames. A door frame, a window, a small wall are metaphorical obstacles regenerating Anne's fight for her dignity and the dignity of her daughter. HALF OF THE SKY mixes the fantasy of a love beyond borders with the cruelty of a world of adults jealous of the bright future of a child.That's what Zhao's child-like behavior means. Pierre Eisenreich