After returning to China from her studies in England, Degena Yun released A Simple Goodbye (15), which she shot while a student at the Beijing Film Academy. The film earned her the Spirit of Asia Award by the Japan Foundation Asia Center at the 28th Tokyo International Film Festival. A Simple Goodbye was a biographical depiction of conflict and reconciliation between a father suffering a terminal disease and a daughter who has returned from her studies abroad, while also reflecting the rise and decline of the Inner Mongolian film industry. The Sea revolves around disagreements between a mother and daughter, ending on a hopeful note that hints their relationship may change for the better. As in A Simple Goodbye, this film also poses incisive questions about what family means. As to the meaning of the title The Sea to this Inner Mongolian filmmaker, that is for us to discover.
The story revolves around a mother and daughter on the road traveling east to the shore from Beijing. The high-strung mother, chatting on her mobile phone, then chatting to her daughter, then offering passionate prayers to a temple where they stop, is nothing but a nuisance to her daughter, who offers sullen disinterest to whatever her mother says and does. The conversation eventually touches on the recently deceased father and their relatives, resulting in an explosion of anger. So goes the journey, mother and daughter sitting side by side, never making eye contact, but constantly bickering. They soon reach the sea. As they sit in a small boat, their anger seems to have dissipated. What happens next?
Jin Chen had her first starring role in Out of the Desert in 1988, playing the female protagonist. In 1999, Chen starred in Roaring Across the Horizon, winning the Huabiao Award for Outstanding Actress, the Golden Rooster Award for Best Supporting Actress and Best Supporting Actress at the Changchun Film Festival. She has appeared in works by renowned filmmakers, such as Curse of the Golden Flower (2006), directed by Zhang Yimou, and Aftershock (2010), directed by Feng Xiaogang. In 2015, Nezha earned her Best Supporting Actress at the Shanghai International Film Festival New Media Awards, and in 2016, Chen’s performance in A Noble Spirit helped it win a Huabiao Award for Prominent Films on Ethnic Minorities. In 2017, she earned an award from the organizing committee of the 25th Beijing Student Film Festival for Hold Your Hands.
Zhe Gong earned a master’s degree in filmmaking at the China Central Academy of Fine Arts. She made her debut as an actress in You and Me (2005), which earned her numerous awards and nominations and was screened at the 18th TIFF. She went on to appear in a variety of films, including Good Earth, Stronger Than Earthquake, Xidan Street Girl and Burqin Tonghua. Accolades include the Beijing Student Film Festival Best Newcomer Award, and Chinese Film Media Awards Best New Performer.