The Vanishing Spring Light (2011, China / Canada)

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Director: Xun Yu | 80 & 112 minutes | China, Canada | 2011 | Language: Mandarin, English

About China


“In a Sichuan town, in an old district soon to be demolished, Madame Jiang lives with some of her family, who have transformed her house into a mah-jong parlour. As she lies on her deathbed, family conflicts escalate.” (

“Director Xun Yu uses a thoughtful approach to look at the loss of the traditional role of elders in China as reflected in the approaching redevelopment of a Silk Road avenue. Yu’s subject, the frail but coarse Grandma Jiang, is treated as a burden by her son’s family and mostly forgotten by her faraway daughters. A harrowing portrait of a life forgotten to the shifts in Chinese society and the concept of family, the film is a reminder of what’s shunted aside in the name of modernization. – DB (Silverdocs 2012)

“The Vanishing Spring Light follows Grandma Jiang in her final days. The matriarch of an ordinary Chinese family, she has suffered a stroke after an accidental fall. As her health deteriorates, conflicts within the family begin to emerge.
While Grandma Jiang is consumed by her illness, the family struggles to avoid collapse. The Vanishing Spring Light is a film about a family’s love and loss, obligation and attachment, guilt, transformation and destiny.”
Film review by Robert Koehler: Variety

“The first of four feature docus (under the banner title “Tales of West Street”) about an old neighborhood on the verge of gentrification in Dujiangyan, Sichuan province, “The Vanishing Spring Light” observes the final spring in the life of struggling matriarch Grandma Jiang. The quotidian giving way to death’s profundity is the real subject of this effort from Canadian-based filmmaker Yu Xun, and it comes across with enough impact to justify the pic’s string of fest prizes, which will set it up for a good worldwide tour and select tube sales. Spare and unsentimental in his approach, Yu patiently (and inevitably for some, too slowly) takes in Jiang’s declining health as her family members often indulge in spats and emotional outbursts. The 75-year-old woman is introduced after having suffered a near-fatal fall, triggering a stroke; she’s still quite alert and verbal, and smokes like a chimney, but the strain of taking care of her is wearing down her daughter-in-law Xiao Da, married to Jiang’s only son, taxi driver Qian-hong.

Jiang spends much of her time on Dujiangyan’s West Street, fronting the home she bought in 1960. The opening graphic informs that the street is being readied for massive urban renewal, and its age is reflected in the neighborhood’s largely elderly population, congregating at the (illegal) mahjong parlor in Jiang’s home which Xiao manages.

Yu and editor Gu Tao slow the pace as Jiang’s health wanes, with shots sustained at a length that don’t always benefit the film’s full effect. At the same time, the director’s lengthy bedside conversations with Jiang yield such fascinating details as her admission that she’s “a would-be Buddhist,” more concerned about death than a genuine Buddhist might be. Yu’s clean, sharp HD lensing is incredibly intimate, given the sensitivity of the material, which is borne out by a lack of music.” (EyeSteel / Catndocs)


Film page on IMDb

Film page on

Video excerpts on Vimeo

Interview with Xun Yu on Vimeo


Festivals: IDFA Competition for First Appearance | RIDM | Busan Film Festival

Cinéma du réel 2012 Silverdocs 2012

Award: Joris Ivens Award – Cinéma du Réel 2012



. review in Variety


6 doc films about Asia at Silverdocs 2012

Chinese “The Vanishing Spring Light” wins Joris Ivens Award at Cinéma du Réel 2012

8 Asian docs invited to Paris by Cinema du Réel 2012

In Amsterdam, Four Asian docs win awards at 24th IDFA

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