Review: DANCING THROUGH THE SHADOW at Sedona International Film Festival

The film premieres at this year’s Sedona International Film Festival on Friday, March 1st at the Sedona Performing Arts Center.

By: Feb. 19, 2024
Review: DANCING THROUGH THE SHADOW at Sedona International Film Festival
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In the name of ideological purity and the conviction that the momentum of revolution must be maintained at all costs, Mao Zedong’s cult of personality consigned millions of Chinese to denial of personal liberties, purges, labor and re-education camps, torture, and execution. In the period from 1949 (the establishment of the People’s Republic of China and the flight of Nationalist Chinese to Taiwan) to Mao’s death in 1976, life on the mainland was scarred by the extremes of land reform, the Great Leap Forward, the Cultural Revolution, the Great Famine, and the Red Guard. The culture of authoritarianism and repression persists to this day.

It is against this landscape of political and social turbulence that the prolific and award-winning filmmaking team of Leif and Agnes Bristow chronicle the painstaking journey to freedom of ballet dancer Tia Zhang in their epic film, DANCING THROUGH THE SHADOW.

The narrative begins with the failed effort of Tia and her family to flee the mainland and culminates in a life-changing encounter. Along the way, the film’s shifts in mood and tone are accentuated by Rudolf Blahacek’s stunning cinematography and James Mark Stewart’s transcendent music.

Kri AZ exstina Tonteri-Young, an accomplished ballerina in her own right, delivers a tender and riveting portrayal of the ardent and idealistic Tia whose determination to follow her heart places her at odds with family and tradition. Her mother (Uni Park), a stalwart traditionalist, insists on an arranged marriage with the son of a family of means. Tia, however, has fallen in love with Jason (an endearing and charismatic Jonathan Kim), an athlete with whom she has posed for a monumental sculpture of two revolutionaries. She defies her mother’s will and pays the price of estrangement until an accommodation is reached. Tia and Jason endure the toils of hard labor and the tribulations of separation from each other and from their son. After they are finally reunited, a world of possibility and a portal to a new future appears when Tia is invited by Louise Turner (Brittany Bristow), a sympathetic fan and soon-to-be benefactor, to participate in a cultural exchange in London.

Between the lines of this saga are layers of experience and richly defined portrayals that give the film depth, meaning, and relevance. Among the stellar performances are those of Marianna Phung as Tia’s devoted sister; Mung-Ling Tsui as Nai Nai, Tia’s doting grandmother; Russell Yuen as Nai Nai’s defiant and embittered husband; and Daniel Jun as Shi, Tia’s childhood friend and unrequited suitor. 

DANCING THROUGH THE SHADOW is a grand and tenderly told love conquers all story, a compelling history lesson, and a gripping tribute to one woman’s devotion and unquenchable thirst for freedom. It is as well a marvelous tribute to a woman who, once having achieved her freedom, committed herself to teaching a new generation of ballet dancers and living the fundamental principles of Falun Dafa ~ truthfulness, compassion, and forbearance.

DANCING THROUGH THE SHADOW (114 minutes) premieres at this year’s Sedona International Film Festival at 7:00 p.m., Friday, March 1st at the Sedona Performing Arts Center.

Sedona International Film Festival ~ ~ 2030 W. State Route 89A, Suite A-3, Sedona, AZ ~ 928-282-1177

Venue: Sedona Performing Arts Center ~ 995 Upper Red Rock Loop Rd, Sedona, AZ ~ 928-204-6766

Photo credit to Leif Films: L to R: Jonathan Kim, Kristina Tonteri-Young



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