Eight years after winning the new talent prize at Cannes, Chinese director Wang Chao is hoping to renew the feat with his new film about a family that falls apart over the father's cancer.
Set in the heaving, foggy metropolis of Chongqing, "Fantasia" delves deep into the ills of modern society in the world's most populous country -- a lack of universal healthcare, prostitution and a fading sense of community as money conquers all.
The film is competing in the Un Certain Regard section of this year's Cannes Film Festival, a category that seeks out new talent and encourages daring work that Wang already won in 2006 with "Luxury Car."
"Fantasia" revolves around Xiao Lin, a boy whose father is diagnosed with terminal leukaemia, turning the family's life upside down.
The factory his father works for initially takes care of hospital fees but eventually tells his wife that they can only pay half of future medical bills.
She goes around asking for money from friends, one of whom is wealthy but refuses to lend her any -- as does her own father, who needs to keep the cash in case he too falls ill.
Xiao Lin's elder sister turns to prostitution to help her father, while their mother sells blood to earn some extra cash.
As for the boy himself, he starts skipping class after being bullied at school and escapes into his own fantasy world.
The film is set against the backdrop of Chongqing -- an industrial city like no other in China where forests of skyscrapers look over the mighty Yangtze River, the bright lights of the city centre shining onto decrepit shacks.
Long, lingering shots of the murky river, horns blasting as barges sail through, soak in the unique atmosphere of this pulsating city.
- 'Sixth Generation' director -
From a working-class family himself, Wang laboured for several years at a steel mill before enrolling in the famed Beijing Film Academy when he was laid off and becoming a movie critic.
His critical prose caught the eye of veteran director Chen Kaige who took Wang on as an assistant, and both worked on what has become one of the most famous Chinese films abroad -- "Farewell My Concubine."
Wang eventually branched out on his own into the difficult world of independent film-making, joining the illustrious club of the so-called "Sixth Generation" directors in China who focus mainly on social issues, and include this year's festival jury member Jia Zhangke.
He said in production notes that he had written the script for "Fantasia" in 2003, several years after shooting his first feature movie "The Orphan of Anyang."
"Ten years later, there has been no fundamental change in the real difficulties that the Chinese working class faces, and so I still wanted to shoot it," he said.
One of the main themes of the film is access to medical care in China, which has become a huge problem since universal healthcare collapsed in the early 1980s along with the country's modernisation drive.
While the government has been working to provide affordable basic care for all, many families cannot meet soaring medical costs when someone falls ill and end up spending all their savings until they have nothing left.
Wang said that apart from these domestic issues, facing death was "a kind of universal human suffering" which would have resonance with all.