Again this year, Denver Film Festival artistic director Brit Withey is offering his must-see picks for each day of the fest — including many flicks that movie lovers might otherwise miss amid the flood of silver-screen goodies. Today he spotlights a selection for November 9: Old Stone.
Old Stone is "a Chinese narrative film that's based on one of the oddest realities that I've been made aware of in recent times," says Brit Withey, artistic director for the Denver Film Festival. "Apparently, if you get into a car accident in China — car-to-human, which happens a fair amount in Beijing, where there's a lot of chaos among cars and millions of people walking around — the driver is responsible for that person's medical bills until they're better. And this has led to a couple of different things. One of them is a kind of extended fraud, where a person will pretend to be injured longer than they are so they can continue getting payments from the driver's family. But an even more bizarre phenomenon is that if somebody hits someone with their car, they may back up to make sure that person is dead, because it's easier to make a one-time death payment than to make ongoing payments because the person is injured."
For more about this situation, check out the 2015 Slate article headlined, "Why Drivers in China Intentionally Kill the Pedestrians They Hit."
Such a scenario is at the heart of first-time director Johnny Ma's Old Stone, which Withey describes as "a moral revenge thriller and drama about this taxi driver that hits someone who ends up in a coma. The taxi driver's a really good guy, and he does his duty to pay all this guy's hospital bills. But all the while, his own family is falling to pieces. They don't have a lot of money, and his wife is threatening to leave him and he can't keep his young kid in school. He's flushing his life and his family's life down the toilet by keeping this up."
Then, months later, Withey says, the taxi driver discovers "that he's being scammed — this guy isn't really hurt anymore. And that's when the film takes a darker turn, with the taxi driver deciding to exact his own certain revenge. It's a really wonderful film, and I'm definitely looking forward to whatever the director does next."
Here's the trailer for Old Stone. Click to access all the film festival's selections and to purchase tickets.