By Athena Yuan
China is the place where Apple has most of its iPhones manufactured. However, as iPhones cost up to 30 percent more in China due to taxes and levies than Hong Kong, smuggling becomes a lucrative activity for criminals.
The Chinese female director Baixue makes the smuggling of iPhone a background of her first feature film The Crossing (Chinese Name: Guo Chun Tian) and tells a coming of age story of how an innocent schoolgirl embarks on a smuggling career.
© TIFF Trailers | YouTube
Peipei (Huang Yao), a sixteen-year-old cross-boundary student, travels back and forth between Hong Kong and Shenzhen every day. In order to save money for a Christmas trip to Japan with her best friend Jo (Carmen Soup), Peipei works as a minimum wage waitress in a local restaurant, but soon she becomes an illegal iPhone smuggler which puts her in enormous danger.
“I grew up in Shenzhen and I think that it would be interesting to write a story of cross-boundary children who born and study in Hong Kong but live in mainland China,” Baixue, the director and screenwriter said after the screening. “They have a mixed identity and carrying characteristics of culture from both places and those cultures also would have a conflict of some sort within themselves.”
Most cross-boundary children obtained Hong Kong permanent residency status, which their parents believe is the golden ticket to the free world - bilingual education, freedom to travel, and potential opportunities in the future. However, they have to spend up to five hours commuting daily between home and school, and it’s difficult for their parents to help them with the homework or attend necessary school activities. Most importantly, they may struggle to find self-identification.
Maybe that’s why Peipei is a rather vulnerable and isolated figure. She lives with her mum, A Lan (Ni Hongjie) who spends most of the time lying in bed or playing mahjong in Shenzhen, and her father, Yong Ge (Liu Kaichi), who lives in Hong Kong is largely absent from her life. She belongs neither to Hong Kong nor to mainland China. So, it’s not surprising that Peipei finds her sense of belonging to the smuggling group when she finally has a group of people to have dinner with.
Watch the Q&A with the Cast and Crew of The Crossing here:
© TIFF Trailers | YouTube
Baixue uses close-up shots and freeze-frames as punctuations each time when Peipei crosses a line which may put her in further danger, and as the film’s name The crossing implies, by crossing the physical border between Hong Kong and Shenzhen, Peipei crosses the line between childhood and adulthood, innocent and guilty.
The Crossing had its world premiere screening at the 2018 Toronto International Film Festival as part of the “Discovery” programme, which screens directors’ first or second feature film. It’s not a flattery to say Baixue did an impressive job by blending a typical coming of age story with a criminal theme, and the complications of underlying social problems in her first film.
At the end of the film, Peipei stands on the summit of Victoria Peak and snow starts to fall silently. I see the scene as a magic trick by the director whose name means “snow” in Chinese. Peipei loves snow but has never seen real snow. Hong Kong will never experience snow, so the director creates the fantasy for Peipei anyways. Maybe she wishes all our beautiful dreams could come true while we are growing up.
*Editor’s note: The Crossing as screened at the Toronto International Film Festival ‘18.