Wolf Totem

wolf totem

Wednesday 25 February 2015 in Belgium

Director : Jean-Jacques Annaud
Produced by : Jean-Jacques Annaud, Xavier Castano, La Peikang, Bill Kong
Screenplay : Jean-Jacques Annaud, Alain Godard, John Collee, Lu Wei
Based on : “ Wolf Totem ” by Lu Wei
Starring : William Feng Shaofeng, Shawn Du, Ankhnyam Rachaa, Basen Zhabu, Yin Zhusheng
Running time : 121 minutes
Country : Chine, France
Language : Mandarin, Mongol


The film is based on Lu’s autobiographical novel which took him 30 years to write. It follows a student, Chen Zen (William Feng Shaofeng), sent from Peking to Inner Mongolia to teach a nomadic tribe of shepherds in 1969. It is the real Chen , who needs to learn a lot about the life in this infinite land , hostile and vertiginous on the notion of community,freedom and responsibility , and the most feared and revered creature of the steppes - the wolf, discovering the complex relationship between these almost mythical and sacred creatures and the shepherds.

But it is Chen who ends up learning from the tribes folk about existence on the plains and their near-mystical bond with those wolves that a government apparatchik wants to exterminate.

He found that the Chinese nation (Han) is a kind of nation like the “sheep” and the ethnic minorities (Mongolian , Manchu, Huns , Turks) are a kind of nation just like “ wolves ”. Thus he uses the image of “ wolf ” and “ sheep ” to symbolize his “ Rise and Fall of Chinese combat confusion theory ”.


You would expect no less from Annaud, a helmer who shot “ The Lover ” in Vietnam, Brad Pitt starrer “ Seven Years in Tibet ” partly in Tibet, and tiger sibling tale “ Two Brothers ” in Cambodia. A singular director by any standards, Annaud’s films lie at a unique halfway somewhere between Hollywood (with their high concepts and bold ambitions) and French arthouse (in the urgency of their themes).