Synopsis by Mark Deming
Chinese filmmaker Zhang Yue-dong presents three dreamlike stories of misfits in the nation's biggest city in this anthology feature. In "The Village and the Stranger," a shepherd (Zhang Yue-dong) and his best friend (Qieli Dunzhu) decide to leave behind their lives in the country and move to a suburb of Beijing. They settle into a rooming house where the landlady agrees to let them stay in exchange for doing some work for her; however, when she asks them to put up a pole in the yard, they find it's harder than they expected. The second segment, "City, Wood, Repairman," follows three laborers (Han Dong, Chu Cheng and Gouzi) as they make their way through Beijing, also setting up poles. The men don't seem especially happy with their jobs or one another, and their encounters with a pair of repairmen (Quan Ke and Xiao He) suggest most folks aren't feeling much better about their lives in the big city. The film closes with "Watermelon and Farmer," in which a farmer (Xiao He) is selling his watermelons on a pushcart, but has to deal with angry customers, bratty kids and electrical workers, who claim the farmer is in their way as they're installing new poles for power lines. Xiawu Gou Jiao (aka Mid-Afternoon Barks) received its North American premiere at the 2007 Vancouver Film Festival.