Norbu and Dolma are banished tribal Tibetans who desperately struggle against the harsh terrain and the elements to preserve their young son's life.

Famously praised by Martin Scorsese as the best film he saw in the ’90s, The Horse Thief is a vivid showcase of Tian’s mastery, creating a whole world with carefully orchestrated sounds and images. Telling the deceptively simple story of a lowly thief struggling to support his family and make ends meet, the film nevertheless ventures into sensitive political territory via its setting in the stark landscapes of Tibet, its focus on ethnic minorities, and its depiction of Buddhist traditions and ceremonies. Through minimal dialogue, subdued dramatisation, and a seemingly boundless diegesis, The Horse Thief is an unforgettable depiction of a marginalized land and people that also invites viewers to contemplate the relationship between humans and their environment.

Director Tian Zhuangzhuang has said that he made The Horse Thief for the 21st century… The Horse Thief is a film of the future in more ways than one.

Jonathan Rosenbaum

An intoxicating masterpiece, and the very best film to come from China’s Fifth Generation.

San Francisco Examiner

This programme is supported by Film Hub NI. Part of the Belfast Film Festival young programmers project in association with QFT.

This season was selected and curated by Peize Li. A former graduate of Queens University, Belfast.  Peize Li’s Theme was diversity of Chinese Cinema and Minority Groups in China. She writes:  ‘There are the 56 ethnic groups in China. The diverse stories of different ethnic groups on screen contributes to the diversity of Chinese cinema. This is a collection that involves classic films and films that tells stories of minority ethnic groups of China. Both the collections of classic Chinese films and films of Chinese minority ethnic group involves films that are made by most prominent Fourth, Fifth and Sixth Generation of Chinese Filmmakers and latest new filmmakers of China.  From the film The Horse Thief made in the year of 1986 to the River Road made in 2014, Chinese film industry and film cultures witnessed massive changes. While the Chinese film industries growing rapidly during these years, the major roles that used to be played by the state-owned studios are now played by different types of producers. In recent years, the films that tell stories about minority ethnic groups are frequently paid attentions by the world-wide audiences.’