Carol Salter’s tender coming-of-age documentary chronicles the life of 17 year old Ying Ling who, like many teenagers of her generation, has moved from a small village to one of China’s booming industrial cities to find work. Despite being afraid of ghosts, Ying Ling has taken up an apprenticeship as an undertaker at a large funeral home in Hunan Province’s capital Changsha. She shares accommodation with the other trainees in her work place’s basement and strikes up an affectionate friendship with a fellow mortician - the gawky and goofy Jin Hau. The film follows them in their daily work routines - washing dead bodies, arranging funerals, tending to mourning relatives - while trying to find their place in the world.
Almost Heaven treats death and the grieving families attending the funeral home with the utmost respect yet equally manages to depict the joy for life of its young protagonist with spurts of humour lightening up the establishment’s long dark corridors. It is an examination of the meaning of death as much as a celebration of life and what it means to be young in present-day China.
A Q&A with director Carol Salter will follow the screening.