I post this with apologies.
This is more or less the sketch I wrote immediately after seeing STREETWISE. Its a film full of the passion one feels after seeing a truly special film and it filled me with lots of thoughts.
I wasn't planning on covering the film (I'm doing 3 fests at once) but because my friend Ed Douglas was so high on the film I asked for a screener and received it and the proceeded to watch it at lunch at work and a bit ( more really) past the end of my break. I couldn't stop, I had to see it to the conclusion.
Blown away I scribbled some notes ---and I ended up using the draft notes as this review because things happen and the hours I would need to really write this film up as it needs to be written up disappeared.
What follows are my real raw and in the moment thoughts on a truly great film. All you need do is just go see it any you'll know that Ed and myself are right.
Na Jiazuo’s STREETWISE is one of the absolute must see films of this year.
Before I saw it I made the mistake of not thinking it was. But then I was kicked in the knees when Ed Douglas started proselytizing about the film on social media. He was complaining that it was leaving the Metrograph in New York before he could bring his friends to the theater to show him what was one of the top two films of the year... and perhaps its most unheralded. Reading his online conversations about the film I knew I had to see it and I then arranged to do so.
Ed is absolutely right this is one of the best films you will see all year.
It's so good that I’m almost willing to give it the annual Unseen Film Award as the Best Unseen Film of the year right now.
STREETWISE is the bittersweet tale of Dong Zi, a young debt collector living as best he can. Working within the criminal world he is trying to make enough money to not only live but also pay for his father’s medical bills. We watch as he goes through his days in the small city he calls home.
I made it sound simple but the film is far from that. This is a bittersweet slice of life that invades your soul and gets under your skin. Dong Zi and the people he meets not only become sort of friends, but they all so reflect back the people we know. Sure these are people living on the downside of a province in China, but they are also friends and family we know.
The press material for the film charts director Na Jiazuo’s course from fine art student to film director and while it seems to chart a course of missed opportunities, the truth of the matter is fate was on our side in that it put him into the perfect place to make stunning first feature. STREETWISE may be a first feature but the truth of the matter is it is an assured piece of filmmaking that is the calling card of a force to be reckoned with. This is one of the great cinematic treasures of 2023. It’s a film that is going to make you wonder what he is going to do next?(And three films on, and twenty....)
I was moved both emotionally and intellectually both for the story we are told and the technical virtuosity of the filmmaking.
I am so moved that I am not watching the film a second time so that I can get word out to you so you can see it.
You need to see this film. You need to see it as soon as you can.
This is the sort of film that I started Unseen Films to highlight- small under the radar gems that need to find an audience
One of the great films of 2023 and as such is highly recommended.
It plays again at Metrograph August 7 at 915, but I suspect it will be back.