‘RETURN TO DUST’ will be released in UK & Irish cinemas from 4 November 2022!

Modern Films will release the new Chinese feature film, RETURN TO DUST, in UK and Irish cinemas from 4 November 2022.

Following its widespread critical and box office success, the film, an unlikely romance set in rural northwestern China, is currently the subject of news headlines and has now been officially ‘pulled’ from Chinese movie theatres and streaming platforms.

RETURN TO DUST is the poetic sixth feature from Chinese writer-director Li Ruijun. A tender love story with political undertones, socio-economic impact and cues for cultural change, it traces the evolving love story of two outcasts, yoked together by an arranged marriage that defies expectation and quietly blooms into a beautifully pure romance.

An improbable middle-aged pair, the reserved Ma (Wu Renlin), a poor farmer who only owns one donkey, and the disabled and unmarried Guiying (Hai Quing) are both openly spoken of as the burden of their families. Despite their arranged marriage and the tests of their inhospitable environment, they fall in love, against the odds and despite so many conflicting external conditions.



A portrait of a burgeoning relationship, made up of delicate moments, small joys, and selfless devotion, RETURN TO DUST is a thoughtful meditation on the loss of a simpler way of rural life and a heartwarming tale of perseverance. Set in 2010 in the landlocked Gansu province of Northwest China, the impending threat of urbanisation relentlessly encroaches on their attempts to build a home together, and on the beauty they find in the simplicity of agrarianism. The film was shot during the pandemic and filmed over the course of a calendar year.

As in many of his other films, RETURN TO DUST is set in film director Li Ruijun’s hometown, the small rural village of Gaotoi. with his uncle and real-life farmer Wu Renlin taking on the role of Ma. Li’s deep connection to his birthplace brings a further gravity to his exploration of family, relationships, and life and death in a rapidly evolving China.

The film had its World Premiere at the Berlin International Film Festival 2022 and later won the Audience Award at the Far East Film Festival in April 2022. It received its UK Premiere at the Edinburgh International Film Festival in August 2022 where it was listed in the Top 10 Films to Watch. The film also featured as part of the official selection at Toronto International Film Festival earlier this month.

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