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Taming the Horse

Gu Tao

Release year: 2017

Run time: 124 mins

Film type: Documentary


Growing up on the wind-blown plains of Inner Mongolia, Dong developed an unbridled spirit and a belief in the virtues of simple living. When his family, like millions of others during China’s economic reform, migrated south seeking opportunity, Dong’s spirited ideals were at odds with the values of a rapidly modernizing society in the early throws of consumerist frenzy. More than a decade later, Dong is a dreamer who has lost his way, a loser in derision, spiritually alienated and socially troubled—a listless young adult battling bouts of depression and substance abuse without a sense of place or purpose in his own society.

When an old friend and filmmaker returns to the city with a video camera in hand on the eve of Dong’s 30th birthday, something in him stirs and he begins pouring out his most intimate thoughts. Over the course of a year, filmmaker GU Tao accompanies Dong in his struggles with family and society, sex and love, identity and survival as a young man in modern China. The resulting portrait is of a difficult and divisive young man; a sympathetic record on the human condition in contemporary China; a raw cry for truth, a longing for a better life.


Director biography

Gu Tao graduated from Concordia University's Hoppenheim Film School in Canada, majoring in Film Production. His experimental film, On the Way to the Sea, was invited to screen at over forty global film festivals, including the Sundance Film Festival in the United States, the International Film Festival Rotterdam in the Netherlands, the Yamagata International Documentary Film Festival in Japan, and the Perez Art Museum in Miami, USA. It received multiple awards, such as the Special Jury Prize in the experimental film category at the Clermont-Ferrand International Short Film Festival in France and was named one of Canada's Top 10 Shorts by the Toronto International Film Festival in 2010.

As a filmmaker, Gu Tao has also been involved in documentary editing. His editing work on the feature-length documentary The Last Spring received the Best Debut Award at the 2011 Amsterdam International Documentary Film Festival, the Best Newcomer Award at the 2011 Montreal International Documentary Festival in Canada, and the Best Debut Award at the 2012 Cinéma du Réel Film Festival in France. The film was also screened at the 2012 Taiwan International Documentary Festival.

Taming the Horse is Gu Tao's first feature-length documentary, which earned him the Best Canadian Feature Award at the Montreal International Documentary Festival in Canada and the Golden Air Balloon Award for Best Film at the Nantes Film Festival in France. It was also selected for the International Competition section at the 2017 Visions du Réel International Film Festival in Switzerland and the International Section of the 2017 Leipzig Documentary and Animation Film Festival in Germany.