Song of the Phoenix

(Bai Niao Chao Feng)

Monday 12 February 2018 14:00 NFT1 BFI Southbank

This captivating and sensitive drama, set against the picturesque backdrop of rural China, focuses on a young musician and his teacher. They play the suona, a traditional double-reeded horn with a distinctive sound and ritual purpose, a practice now in danger of being marginalised in contemporary Chinese society. The conflict between modernity and tradition, as well as that of the relationship between teacher and student, is resonant in this final film from China’s leading fourth-generation director, Wu Tianming. Wu was a director and producer, known for The King of Masks (1996), The Old Well (1987) and River Without Buoys (1984). 
Duration 108 mins
Director Wu Tianming
Screenwriter Wu Tianming, Xueying Luo, Jianghong Xiao
Cast Zeru Tao, Mincheng Li, Bo Ji, Xianxun Hu, Wei Zheng
Award The 29th Golden Rooster Awards Special Jury Prize
Language Chinese Mandarin with English subtitles


Donors’ Complimentary Tickets

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Subscribers’ Complimentary Ticket

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Free for over-60s:

Please book by phone or in person at BFI Southbank only: 044(0)20 7928 3232 (11.30 – 20.30 daily)

Normal matinee price (BFI BoxofficeBox office)

Booking opens on 16 Jan 2018, 11:30 am.

Due to the popularity for New Year screenings, advance booking is recommended.

“What Song of the Phoenix showed is not just the story of a group of artists, but more of Director Wu Tianming’s reflection on Chinese culture as a whole. ‘Gold, Wood, Water, Fire, and Soil’, the five villages around the ‘Wushuang town’, symbolises the traditional Chinese spatial structure. The clash between the suona band and the Western orchestra symbolises the conflict and confrontation between traditional Chinese social structure and culture and the Western civilisation and marketisation. What conceals behind Song of Phoenix is in fact, the decline of the traditional Chinese ethics, which indicates the decades of ritual collapse and moral degradations. Even the name of the protagonist ‘Tianming’ is homophonic with the director’s name ‘Tianming’ (with different Chinese characters), thus the message of ‘he master speaks of himself’ is expressed on screen. So to speak, director Wu Tianming’s last film is a continuation of his reflections on life that ran from Old Well through to The King of Masks, still using cinemas to portrayal the ‘China’ in his heart.”

– Film Critic Feng Jian Sun

Strongly recommended by Jia Zhangke: “one would be deeply touched even just five minutes into the film.”

Beijing Times

“Probably one of the must-see films this year.”

Sina Entertainment

How to get to the cinema

Directions and travel information.

BFI Southbank
Belvedere Road
South Bank
London SE1 8XT

By car
Parking is available under the National Theatre (offer Upper Ground), under the Hayward Gallery or in front of the Shell Centre. The Congestion Charge applies.

By train or underground
The nearest stations are Waterloo (South Bank exit), Embankment and Charing Cross (cross Hungerford Bridge to reach the South Bank).

By bus
Routes 1, 4*, 26, 68, 76, 77, 139*, 168, 171, 172, 176, 188, 211, 243*, 341, 381, 507*, 521*, RV1.

*There is limited service on these routes. Please visit for up-to-date information.

By taxi
A computer cab service is available from the Royal Festival Hall foyer.

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