Toronto: 'Breakup Buddies' Director on the Absurdity of Modern China

The new comedy from Ning Hao stars 'Lost in Thailand's' Xu Zheng and Huang Bo

Modern life in China is one big, absurd comedy.

That, at least, is the opinion of Chinese director Ning Hao, who presented his latest laffer, Breakup Buddies, at the Toronto Film Festival on Sunday. The press conference for the film was moderated by THR Asian Bureau Chief Clifford Coonan.

Breakup Buddies follows a recently divorced man and his best friend who hit the road for a series of misadventures. It reteams actors Xu Zheng and Huang Bo in their first comedy together since megahit Lost in Thailand, which grossed nearly $200 million in China in 2012.

Ning, whose 2005 dramedy Mongolian Ping Pong was a festival hit and who has mainstream success in China with recent films Crazy Racer and No Man's Land, said his style of absurdist comedy is a reflection of the reality of Chinese life today. "You can find many themes of absurdism in [Chinese] society today," he said. "[My] absurdism is based on reality. It's the next step — the reflection of the reality."

The director said the new wave of road trip comedies in China (No Man's Land was also a road movie) is a reaction to a real-life trend, as the automobile invades the countryside, transforming traditional lifestyles.

"Because of the economy in China and influences from North America and Russia, cars have become a powerful symbol," said Ning. "It is almost like you cannot live without a car in China. … I think there will be many more road movies to come out of China."

China Lion Film Distribution has picked up all rights in North America, Australia and New Zealand for Breakup Buddies from IM Global and is planning a day-and-date domestic release of the film in October, timed to its bow in the Chinese market.

Twitter: @sroxborough