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Ocean Heaven

(Haiyang Tiantang)

Canadian Premiere

  • Drama
  • /
  • China
  • /
  • 2010
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  • 96 min
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  • 35mm
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  • Mandarin with English subtitles
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Opening Film, Shanghai International Film Festival 2010
Official Selection, New York Asian Film Festival 2011
Official Selection, Hawaii International Film Festival 2011

Screening Times

“Awash with holistic, quasi-fantastical overtones, enhanced by Christopher Doyle's ravishing aquatic cinematography” — Maggie Lee, HOLLYWOOD REPORTER


Director: Xue Xiaolu
Screenplay: Xue Xiaolu
Cast: Jet Li, Wen Zhang, Kwai Lun-mei
Producers: William Kong, Hao Lee, Ma Hefeng
Print Source: Well Go USA



The conundrum confronting Wang Xingchang, is simple, clear and heartbreaking. For the last 14 years, since his wife passed away, Wang — a humble, competent and dedicated caretaker at an aquarium theme park — has raised their son Dafu, now 21, by himself. Dafu is inquisitive, cheerful… and helpless, for he is autistic. Too old now for the special-needs school, Dafu accompanies Wang to work each day. In the water there, swimming gracefully among the marine creatures, Dafu is truly at home. But this tenuous situation cannot hold. Wang is dying. As his terminal illness advances and the days left to him dwindle away, he must train Dafu — with stern determination and often rough impatience — to buy groceries, make breakfast, all the simple tasks needed to function on his own. At the same time, Wang desperately seeks an institution, a school or home that will take Dafu in. Doors are shut in his face. It is a quiet race against time, far more poignant than any action film.

Just as the king of the kung fu clowns, Jackie Chan, has moved on to a new stage in his career with recent films that emphasize acting over action, so does martial arts icon Jet Li now enter a mature phase of his career. Strenuous acrobatics and stunts are a young man’s game, and Li has been among the best of them in his day. Debuting in 1982 with SHAOLIN TEMPLE, the Beijing-born, babyfaced but bodily ballistic Li shot to the top of his field and starred in countless modern classics of kung fu cinema. Fantasia veterans know well such gems as the ONCE UPON A TIME IN CHINA series and the monumental HERO. But OCEAN HEAVEN, which costars an expressive Wen Zhang as Dafu and Taiwanese actress Kwai Lun-mei (PARKING), is more than a calculated career shift for the devout Buddhist Li. It’s an expression of his philanthropic concern, particularly for his homeland in the face of great social challenges. Driven to action following his own close-call survival of the 2004 tsunami in the Maldives, Li founded the One Foundation, mobilizing disaster relief, environmental and educational initiatives and, salient to the socially conscious tearjerker OCEAN HEAVEN (lushly lensed by the great Christopher Doyle), aid for those with mental health challenges and their loved ones. Now that’s a hero.

—Rupert Bottenberg

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