Whilst China has been the biggest economic success story of the 21st century, the transition from a Communist society to one competing for global dominance with America has not always been smooth going. It has seen the rise of a prosperous middle-class but a far greater number have been left behind; often exploited or trampled on. The response from independent film-makers has mostly focused on tackling this inequality through social realism. Cathy Yan takes a different approach in Dead Pigs.
Pigs are mysteriously dying throughout the region. Old Wang (Haoyu Yang) is a pig farmer whose life has been turned upside down. His sister Candy Wang (Vivian Wu) is the last resident standing as the bulldozers move in for the kill. Sean (David Rysdahl), an American architect, works for the construction company but has begun moonlighting as a model. Wang’s son (Mason Lee) pretends to be a successful businessman but is in fact a waiter, falls for a self-obsessed rich kid Xia Xia (Li Meng).
Dead Pigs is an acerbic commentary on modern China, wrapped in an absurdist comedy and an oddball family drama. Whilst it feels distinctly Chinese, there’s no doubt Yan’s time in America has given her a rather unique perspective on her homeland. It’s an absolute riot and you’re never sure what’s going to happen next. Whether it’s a random dance number or merely baffling chaos. Dead Pigs is a stylish and irreverent social satire about greed, progress and the loss of values in Asia’s behemoth.
Dead Pigs screens at London Film Festival on 19 & 21 October.