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While American audiences still exhibit some resistance to foreign language films, there are those which are able to draw them out of this self-inflicted confinement. Silver Secret promises to be just such a film. The films displays filmmaking skill at its most adept level in a story about bullying, murder, secrets, and the reunion of two people at the center of this occurrence. This Chinese spoken language suspense tale is cross-cultural with its inspection of social class, economic class, and how violence effects character is relatable in a way that transcends any geographic of linguistic borders. The setting of Beijing manifests a palpable tone of mystery and history that would likely be unattainable in a U.S. setting, furthering the irresistible attraction to this film. The magical team of directors Sibo Zhu (Best Asian Film Nominee at the Cannes World Film Festival 2021/2022), Ziyang Li (awarded Honorable Mention at the London International Monthly Film Festival 2022), and editor Zhiqiu “Roxy” Jin (Awarded Best Editing at the Hollywood Gold Awards for Veneers and There Was A Dove, But…) have toiled over this film to present something enveloping and consuming. Not available to American audiences until next year’s festival run, Silver Secret is a dark enchanting film which causes the audience to ponder what defines character. 

When Cheng Zilin (portrayed by Jiayi Zhao) is transferred to the international department of a high school in Beijing, it appears that her hard work and studying is leading her to a path of betterment. Coming from an economically poor family, she sees this as the ladder to a brighter future that society has always considered education to be. A friendship forms between Cheng Zilin and one of her new classmates named Xu jiaxin. A simple story of teen bonding alters drastically when a bullying incident escalates to catastrophe. Just as in a Dostoevsky novel, the key pillars of human nature are observed in this Chinese High School setting; ethics, good and evil, life and death. Seeing the bloom and cultivation of the best and worst of what we can possess as humans is stark in the lives of these seemingly promising young people. 

What makes any story fascinating is not the events but rather the way in which it is told. The spectrum from Hitchcock to Fellini to Tarantino is expansive, the remarkable qualities of each is undeniable. As captivating as the performances on-screen are in Silver Secret, there’s an irresistible quality in the way the film has been constructed and related. In particular, editor Roxy Jin displays the ability to manifest moments of intensified nervousness which cause the outside world to fade away. One such scene is when the police come to the classroom to call upon the students who are related to the fatal incident, Roxy’s decision to fixate on the teens reaction shots and avoid a view of the officers themselves focuses the anxiety that these teens are existing in and transfers this to the audience as it escalates. The sound of the chairs against the granite floor as they stand when being called upon exacerbates this tone to uncontrollable levels. Years later in the story, when Cheng Zilin and Zhao Yunan (Cheng’s admirer during her teen years) reunite, the differences in how they have both processed what happened and how it has directed their life is stark, highlighted by Ms. Jin’s editing choices. She describes, “Zhao talks nonstop because he still believes that he and Cheng are still as close as they were in high school. In addition, Zhao has dinner without any table manners while Cheng sits across from him, still and uncomfortable. Such contrast is stressed by using the shots of Cheng’s nonverbal response and the unnatural reaction towards Zhao. I elongated Cheng’s silent moment to make this effect more prominent: the longer the silent moment has, the more awkward that the audience feels towards this atmosphere. My intention is to utilize this silent moment to symbolize the difference of their current life situation and the inequality of the emotional inputs between Zhao to Cheng and Cheng to Zhao.” To give too many details about the plot would be to rob audiences of the experience of being shocked by all Silver Secret has to offer. This secret is well worth the anticipation. 

Writer: Coleman Haan

By Punit