The Shadowless Tower



144 minutes | 2023 | Fiction | Mandarin | English Subtitles
Toronto Premiere

The 73rd Berlin International Film Festival – Best Film Nomination
The 13th Beijing International Film Festival – Tiantan Award – Best Screenplay, Best Cinematography, Best Artistic Contribution

7 PM, Sun Jun 9
Innis Town Hall

GU Wentong, a middle-aged food columnist who grew up in Beijing, meets a young photographer, OUYANG Wenhui, through work. Day by day their relationship grows, and it becomes clear that the idea of father, or lack thereof, is an ever-present theme in both their lives.

“Love” in Korean sounds the same as “fool” in Uyghur. Blood vessels have similar shapes to earthworms, but the white tower standing casts no shadow.  The ancient and the new, both move forward, by their own wills or by something else. GU wants to feel younger, yet the how remains ever elusive. The Beijing of the 1990s all but disappears from the silver screen, just as the walls from 2008 are plastered with fresh new paint. He still wears the old-time “Pian’Er Lan” and clings to old habits from Hutong, but Beijing paces forward, slowly, beneath his feet.

Director ZHANG Lü masterfully delivers the memory from the bygone days of Beijing into its current modern space. The merging of urban renewal and unalienated emotions creates a fresh rhythm in the film. In their leisurely stroll by the White Tower, GU, and OUYANG remain uncertain whether the place they have long inhabited can be called “home”. Dancing on this Northern China Plain land, their emotions about the shadows finally find release in their imagination.

The song Beijing Welcomes You, with altered lyrics, becomes a lament of frustrated love amid great changes. As the poet Shi Zhi wrote, “once more I wave to Beijing, and I want to grab by her collar and shout to her, remember me, Mother Beijing! I’ve grasped something at last. No matter whose hand it is, I’ll never let go.

For this is my Beijing. My Beijing, for the final time.” (LIU Yuetong)


ZHANG Lü was born in Yanbian, China, in 1962. Before his film career began, he taught Chinese literature at Yanbian University. In 2004, he directed his debut feature, Tang Poetry (2003), which was selected for the Locarno Film Festival. He then began his career as a film director in both Chinese and Korean, making more than ten feature films. Notable works include Gyeongju (2014), selected for the Locarno Film Festival, and Fukuoka (2019), selected for the Berlin International Film Festival Forum. In recent years, Zhang has refocused on Sinophonic filmmaking. His film Yanagawa (2021) was selected for the Tallinn Black Nights Film Festival, and The Shadowless Tower (2023) was selected for the Berlin International Film Festival Main Competition.


  • Director: ZHANG Lü
  • Principal Cast: XIN Baiqing, HUANG Yao, TIAN Zhuangzhuang
  • Producer: XU Jiahan, PENG Jin
  • Screenplay: ZHANG Lü
  • Cinematographer: PIAO Songri
  • Editor: LIU Xinzhu
  • Music: Xiao He
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