A Touch of Sin

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A Touch of Sin
A Touch of Sin poster.jpg
Film poster
Directed byJia Zhangke
Produced byShôzô Ichiyama
Written byJia Zhangke
Music byLim Giong
CinematographyYu Lik-wai
Edited byMatthieu Laclau
Xudong Lin
Xstream Pictures
Office Kitano
Shanghai Film Group
Shanxi Film & Television Group
Bandai Visual Company
Bitters End
Release date
  • 17 May 2013 (2013-05-17) (Cannes)
Running time
135 minutes

A Touch of Sin (Chinese: 天注定; pinyin: Tiān zhùdìng) is a 2013 Chinese drama film directed by Jia Zhangke (贾樟柯). It was nominated for the Palme d'Or at the 2013 Cannes Film Festival,[1] with Jia winning the award for Best Screenplay.[2] Stars of the film include Zhao Tao, Jia's wife and longtime collaborator.


The film is set in present-day China, and is based on recent events in China's contemporary history. In addition, the film draws on the history of wuxia stories. The title in Chinese, 天注定 (Tian zhuding) is literally translated as "heavenly fate" or "fated doom," while its English title is a reference to King Hu's 1971 action epic A Touch of Zen, one of the most influential wuxia films.

It revolves around four threads set in vastly different geographical and social milieus across modern-day China, ranging from the bustling southern metropolis of Guangzhou and Dongguan to the more rural townships in Jia's home province of Shanxi.[3]

The stories are loosely based on:

  1. Hu Wenhai 胡文海 [zh] (2001)[4][5]
  2. Zhou Kehua (2004-2012)[4][5]
  3. Deng Yujiao incident (2009)[4][5]
  4. Foxconn suicides (2007-2013)[4][5]


Review aggregation website Rotten Tomatoes gives the film a score of 93% based on reviews from 72 critics, with an average rating of 7.6 out of 10. The site's consensus states: Its screenplay isn't as graceful as the choreography of its action sequences, but A Touch of Sin offers enough stylishly satisfying violence to muscle past its rough spots.[6]

A Touch of Sin was well received at Cannes, with some critics calling its genre elements, including scenes of graphic violence, a stylistic departure from some of Jia's past works, known for quiet realism and surreal visions of contemporary China. Dennis Lim of the Los Angeles Times notes that although the style may be different, the disturbing themes of the film built on the social criticism in Jia's earlier work.[7] Manohla Dargis of The New York Times praised the film saying "it has the urgency of a screaming headline but one inscribed with visual lyricism, emotional weight and a belief in individual rights".[8]

In 2017, A Touch of Sin was chosen by New York Times as one of the 25 best films of the 21st century.[9]


Although Jia's films have been officially released in China since 2004's The World, his earlier works were made independent of government censors and were thus never publicly released in cinemas. In May 2013 it was announced that the film had been cleared for release in mainland China with a release date of 9 November, a surprise to observers within and outside the country who feared such subject matter was taboo.[10][7] By December 2013 the film still had not been cleared by censors,[11] and a leaked directive from the Central Propaganda Department earlier in October instructed media not to conduct interviews, report or comment on the film.[10][12]


  1. ^ "2013 Official Selection". Cannes. 19 April 2013. Retrieved 19 April 2013.
  2. ^ "Cannes Film Festival: Awards 2013". Cannes. 26 May 2013. Retrieved 26 May 2013.
  3. ^ ""A Touch of Sin" in competition at 2013 Cannes Film Festival". Asianfilmblog. 20 April 2013. Archived from the original on 10 June 2013. Retrieved 20 April 2013.
  4. ^ a b c d 子川 (7 October 2013). "「專訪賈樟柯:電影《天注定》通過虛構達到真實」". BBC中文網 (in Chinese). BBC. (in Chinese)(in Chinese)
  5. ^ a b c d 子川 (7 October 2013). "专访贾樟柯:电影《天注定》通过虚构达到真实". BBC中文网 (in Chinese). BBC. (in Chinese)(in Chinese)
  6. ^ "A Touch of Sin". rottentomatoes.com. 4 October 2013.
  7. ^ a b Dennis Lim (25 May 2013). "In 'Touch of Sin,' Jia Zhangke changes his style but not themes". LA Times. Retrieved 2 October 2013.
  8. ^ Dargis, Manohla (3 October 2013). "'A Touch of Sin,' Four Tales From China by Jia Zhang-ke". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2 April 2018.
  9. ^ Manohla Dargis and A.O. Scott (9 June 2017). "The 25 Best Films of the 21st Century". NY Times. Retrieved 9 June 2017.
  10. ^ a b Diplomat, J.T. Quigley, The. "No China Release for A Touch of Sin, Director Banned from Award Ceremony". The Diplomat. Retrieved 2 April 2018.
  11. ^ Christopher Beam. "'A Touch of Sin' Is Censored in China, But Not for Its Violence - The New Republic". The New Republic.
  12. ^ "Chinese cinema". The Economist.

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