Black Coal, Thin Ice

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Black Coal, Thin Ice
Black Coal, Thin Ice Poster.jpg
Directed by Diao Yinan
Screenplay by Diao Yinan
Starring Liao Fan
Gwei Lun-Mei
Wang Xuebing
Release dates
  • 12 February 2014 (2014-02-12) (Berlin IFF)
  • 21 March 2014 (2014-03-21) (China)
Running time 106 mins
Country China
Language Mandarin
Box office US$16,460,000[1]

Black Coal, Thin Ice (Chinese: 白日焰火; pinyin: Bai Ri Yan Huo; literally: "Daylight Fireworks") is a 2014 Chinese thriller film written and directed by Diao Yinan. The film won the Golden Bear award at the 64th Berlin International Film Festival.[2]


The story is set in northern China in 1999 and 2004.[3][4] A detective works to solve a series of murders where the victims dismembered parts are scattered across the province via coal shipments. The common thread is a female clerk in a dry cleaners.


  • Liao Fan as Zhang Zili
  • Gwei Lun-Mei as Wu Zhizhen
  • Wang Xuebing as Liang Zhijun
  • Wang Jingchun as Rong Rong
  • Yu Ailei as captain Wang
  • Ni Jingyang as Su Lijuan


The project started from Diao Yinan's idea to film a detective story.[5][6] Diao spent eight years in total to write the screenplay;[7] the final version that was filmed was the third draft. The film was then laid out into a detective film noir.[8]

Liao Fan gained 44 pounds of weight to play the film's protagonist of an alcoholic and suspended police officer.[9]


The film's English title Black Coal, Thin Ice is different from its Chinese title Bai Ri Yan Huo, which translates literally as Daylight Fireworks. Diao Yinan came across this phrase from a friend of his.[10] Diao further clarified the meaning of "daylight fireworks" as a state of sentiment or a state of condition. For him, the Chinese and English names together helped to construct the difference between reality and fantasy. In an interview he explained, "Coal and ice both belong to the realm of reality, but fireworks in daylight is something fantastic; they are the two sides of the same coin." The English name refers to the two visual clues in the film: coal as "where the body parts were found" and ice as "where the murder was committed".[11] He further explained, "when the two are combined, the reality of this murder is constructed ... while daytime fireworks is a fantasy, it is what we use to coat ourselves from the cruel side of this real world."


The film was shown in competition at the 64th Berlin International Film Festival,[12] and went on to win the Golden Bear prize for Diao.[2][13] The film's leading actor Liao Fan also won the Silver Bear for Best Actor.[14] The film received critical praises at the Berlin Film Festival, but audience reaction was more divided.[4][9]


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