The Shadow Play

Guangzhou in southern China is a city of modern buildings, luxury facades and endless chains of skyscrapers. And yet here of all places, people have to fight for their living space. While an excavator demolishes a kindergarten in the background, the city’s inhabitants engage in a brutal battle with a private security company to prevent the demolition of their old quarter. In the midst of this turmoil, Tang Yijie, director of the municipal building commission, falls from a roof and dies. A young police officer named Yang Jiadong takes up the case. Before long, other crimes come to light that have never been solved. Or maybe they were not meant to be solved? When Yang is suspended from duty without any proper explanation, he continues his investigation on his own initiative.
In the guise of a film noir, replete with a lonely hero who believes in justice, and dynamically shot using a hand-held camera, Lou Ye’s film is a tale of ruthless avarice, corruption, building scandals and brutal social and economic upheavals. A thriller set in present-day China that uses a criminal case to reflect the country’s most recent history.
by Lou Ye
with Jing Boran, Song Jia, Qin Hao, Ma Sichun, Zhang Songwen, Michelle Chen
People’s Republic of China 2018 Mandarin, Cantonese 125’ Colour


  • Jing Boran (Yang Jiadong)
  • Song Jia (Lin Hui)
  • Qin Hao (Jiang Zicheng)
  • Ma Sichun (Nuo)
  • Zhang Songwen (Tang Yijie)
  • Michelle Chen (Lian Ah Yun)


Director Lou Ye
Screenplay Mei Feng, Qiu Yujie, Ma Yingli
Cinematography Jake Pollock
Editing Jolin Zhu
Music Jóhann Jóhannsson, Jonas Colstrup
Sound Design Fu Kang
Sound Fu Kang
Production Design Zhong Cheng
Costumes Linlin May
Make-Up Zhe Yan
Casting Zhang Rong
Assistant Director Lü Ying
Production Manager Chen Wei
Producers Nai An, Lou Ye
Executive Producer Chang Chia-Lu

Produced by

Dream Factory

Lou Ye

Born in Shanghai, China in 1965. After studying cartoon production at the Shanghai Art School and graduating in directing 1989 from the Beijing Film Academy, he made experimental short films. In 1993, he directed his debut feature, Weekend Lover, which premiered at the International Film Festival Mannheim-Heidelberg in 1996 where it won the Fassbinder Prize. Alongside television productions and short films, his work includes Suzhou River, Spring Fever, Love and Bruises and Blind Massage, films which have premiered and won awards at various festivals including Cannes, Venice and the Berlinale.


1993 Zhoumo Qingren (Weekend Lover) 2000 Suzhou He (Suzhou River) 2001 Zai Shanghai (In Shanghai); short film 2003 Zi Hudie (Purple Butterfly) 2006 Yihe Yuan (Summer Palace) 2009 Chunfeng Chenzui de Yewan (Spring Fever) 2011 Hua (Love and Bruises) 2012 Fucheng Mishi (Mystery) 2014 Tui Na (Blind Massage) 2018 The Shadow Play

Bio- & filmography as of Berlinale 2022