Little Red Flowers

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At the outset of Zhang Yuan's poignant reflection on conformity, a four-year-old boy, Qiang, is deposited in a Beijing kindergarten. Effectively orphaned, Qiang has difficulty acclimating to the school's regimen of how and when to eat, dress, wash his hands, and use the bathroom. The formation of good habits is rewarded with coveted little red flowers, but since Qiang can't yet dress himself and still wets his bed, he's unable to earn any. His frustration and defiance soon put him at odds with the head teacher, Mrs. Li. Zhang is an eclectic, iconoclastic figure in Chinese cinema (as well as a Sundance alumnus with Beijing Bastards and I Love You). He succeeds in the nearly impossible task of eliciting authentic performances from four- and five-year-old kids, capturing their unpredictable behavior, uncertain social interactions, games, and, amazingly, even their moments of introspection. Despite its light touch, the film is a carefully structured exploration of individuality and community. Although Qiang is rebellious more by instinct than intent, he innocently and perfectly represents Zhang's concern about "fitting into" society. Needless to say, the film delivers a dose of satire when that means emulating the "good habit of pooping in the morning." Little Red Flowers is a touching, artful meditation on socialization that also manages -- without pandering or softening its point -- to be quite adorable as well.-- (C) Sundance Film Festival

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