The changes in China affect everyone. Hypnotically, yet also modestly, Of Shadows shows the creative world of shadow theatre and players whose way of life balances between a centuries-old rural narrative tradition and the modern urban idea of a cultural heritage that has to be preserved.
A touching portrait of a travelling theatre company in the northwest of China, where the age-old art of the shadow play is still kept alive in tiny improvised village theatres. However it isn’t easy: many young people are no longer interested in classic puppet theatre and prefer to go to the opera.
The documentary maker Yi Cui, who lives in Canada, followed the musicians and puppeteers during their preparations for the most important theatre and folklore festival of the year. This is the ideal spot to get seen by important theatres from China and abroad, where the rewards are much higher.
However not all the members of the company are interested in an invitation to go to the big city. Their home base is the countryside, where they trek from village to village, playing out their stories in cramped brick houses night after night. It may not pay much, but their love for the craft makes them fight on.