To Live To Sing

Gentrification hits working-class China and a Sichuan Opera troupe struggle to survive in this vivid drama with fantasy flourishes, portraying tradition’s battle against time.

Dir-Scr Johnny Ma
Prod Vincent Wang, Jing Wang
With Zhao Xiaoli, Gan Guidan, Yan Xihu
Sales Films Boutique
With English subtitles

Zhao Li is a woman trying to hold it all together. The Sichuan Opera troupe she manages is creating beautiful work, but it plays to a dwindling audience of the loyal elderly from the theatre’s down-at-heel neighbourhood. With the troupe consisting mainly of veteran performers, her hopes for a change in fortune rest on the shoulders of her talented niece Dan Dan. So, Zhao Li sets about putting on a show to grab the attention of a local bureaucrat who could reverse their eviction notice. For his second feature, Chinese-Canadian filmmaker Johnny Ma corrals a cast made up of real-life Sichuan Opera performers, painting this makeshift family in brightly coloured hues, and injecting humour and splashes of fantasy into this engaging tribute to the endurance of the artistic spirit.

Kate Taylor

Festival guests

This member of the filmmaking team is expected to attend the festival:

  • Johnny Ma, director.

See the full list of visiting festival guests. Please note that we can’t guarantee guest attendance at any particular screening.