Jia Zhang-ke’s Caught By the Tides Sells to Sideshow, Janus in U.S. 5

Sideshow and Janus Films have snapped up U.S. distribution rights to Chinese master filmmaker Jia Zhangke’s latest feature Caught by the Tides, which premiered to rave reviews at this year’s Cannes Film Festival. The two distributors said they will “release the film exclusively in theaters in the coming months.”

Caught by the Tides is composed almost entirely of improvisational footage Jia shot across China over nearly 25 years with his troupe of longtime collaborators. In an interview at Cannes, the director told The Hollywood Reporter that he began to sculpt a feature from the hundreds of hours of footage he had accumulated during the quiet days of China’s long, three-year pandemic shutdown.

THR‘s lead critic summed up the resulting film’s innovative narrative and formal approaches by writing that it “ebbs and flows like poetry.”

Like virtually all of Jia’s work, stretching back to his second feature Unknown Pleasures (2002), Caught by the Tides centers on the presence of his wife and muse, the always-compelling Chinese actress Zhao Tao. Leaning heavily on a soundtrack of traditional and popular Chinese music, Jia pared and recomposed his decades’ worth of material into a powerfully affecting narrative. In the resulting story, Zhao stars as a young woman named Qiaoqiao who is swept up in the times and carried across China in pursuit of her runaway lover, Brother Bin (inhabited by Jia’s longtime line producer, Li Zhubin). 

Many critics have noted how Caught by the Tides‘ expansive temporal portrait echoes Richard Linklater’s Boyhood — but with Jia’s story depicting the growing pains of modern China as much as the multi-year development of his characters.

“Jia Zhang-ke is one of the twenty-first century’s most important filmmakers and with Caught by the Tides he delivers what will surely be considered one of his great films, giv[ing] us the gift of watching Zhao Tao across over two decades and culminating in one of the best scenes of their career together,” said Sideshow and Janus Films in a statement. “We are thrilled to bring this to American audiences in the coming months.”

Zhao Tao and Li Zhubin in ‘Caught by the Tides.’

Caught by the Tides is an X Stream Pictures, Momo Pictures, Huanxi Media and Wishart Media production, in association with MK2 Films, Ad Vitam and Bitters End. It is produced by Casper Liang Jiayan, Shozo Ichiyama and Zhang Dong. Jia and Wan Jiahuan are credited as the film’s screenwriters. MK2 handled the international of the title to Sideshow and Janus.

Sideshow and Janus Films had a busy Cannes in May, acquiring Payal Kapadia’s grand prix winner All We Imagine as Light; Gints Zilbalodis’ Un Certain Regard entry Flow, which just won four prizes at the Annecy Animation Festival; Alain Guiraudie’s Cannes premiere title Misericordia and Leos Carax’s It’s Not Me. In its three-year existence, Sideshow has had six Oscar nominations and one win, for Ryusuke Hamaguchi’s Drive My Car. The company currently has Hamaguchi’s Venice silver lion winner Evil Does Not Exist in release, along with Bertrand Bonello’s The Beast. The company’s next outing is Catherine Breillat’s first film in a decade, Last Summer, starring Léa Drucker and opening on June 28.

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