UFO in Her Eyes


A portrait of modern China’s paradox with fairy tale framing and accent strokes of the surreal, UFO in Her Eyes creates a world as absorbing as it is occasionally unsubtle. Set in the rural “Three-Headed Bird” village, UFO opens with an idyll—a naked boy scurrying through a thickly misted marsh—and then an outdoor tryst between a local schoolteacher (Z. Lan) and a mine worker named Kwok Yun (Shi Ke). Adapted from her own novel by writer/director Xiaolu Guo, UFO uses Kwok’s post-tryst close encounter with a dumpling-shaped spacecraft and the sudden appearance of an injured American (Udo Kier) to set up an exploration of how uneasily capitalist enterprise and a state-controlled, one-for-all culture coexist. Having spotted dollar signs in Kwok’s mystical sighting, the ambitious village leader (Mandy Zhang) begins building a tourist industry around it, turning the backwater into a mini Beijing complete with a five-year plan. The Chinese bureaucrat who comes to investigate (his perspective is literally black and white) finds a township changing so quickly, he can’t keep the coordinates straight. A mixture of droll political satire, lyrical visuals, and dolorous mood make for an uneven but lingering sketch of a China that feels increasingly present yet still rarely seen.