DVD, Digital Release: Return to Dust

Digital, DVD Release Date: Nov. 14, 2023
Price: DVD $22.99
Studio: Film Movement

A tender tale about the transformative nature of love, Return to Dust—the sixth film by acclaimed Chinese director Li Ruijun—expands into a poignant story of resilience against the conventions of society and the exploitation of farm workers.

The film, which unexpectedly topped the box office with $15 million and became the most popular film in China, stirred controversy with its depictions of rural life. Two weeks after opening, it quickly disappeared, without warning, from theaters and streaming services. And, although it has never been officially confirmed that the film was banned, it remains impossible to see in Li’s home country today.

Set in 2010 in the small, rural village in Gaotai, it focuses on two lonely, middle-aged people—Cao, a timid woman suffering from chronic illness and a disability, and Ma, an unassuming farmer with little to his name—who are pushed into an arranged marriage by their respective families. Cast aside as burdens, Cao and Ma’s relationship is tepid at first but warms as the two spend their days fixing up an abandoned house on their small patch of land.

Invigorated by a shared purpose and the all-consuming nature of farm work, the couple’s bond grows. However, in the dwindling rural communities of the Gansu province surrounding them, local farmers are being incentivized by local government to demolish their homes and uproot toward the cities. With their livelihood disappearing, the couple attempt to build a new life together with continued patience and determination toward their home and one another. And in the face of much adversity, an unexpected bond begins to blossom, as both Ma and Cao, uniting with Earth’s cycles, create a haven for themselves in which they can thrive.

The DVD also offers one bonus feature in the form of a short film:

  • Bonus Short Film— Hair Tie, Egg, Homework Books (Directed by Luo Runxiao | China | 15 minutes | Chinese with English subtitles) — Model student Lin Yuqi is assigned to give a speech about her family at a parents open house event but after a run-in with a mischievous classmate she starts having second thoughts.
Buy or Rent Return to Dust
on DVD

About Laurence

Founder and editor Laurence Lerman saw Alfred Hitchcock’s North by Northwest when he was 13 years old and that’s all it took. He has been writing about film and video for more than a quarter of a century for magazines, anthologies, websites and most recently, Video Business magazine, where he served as the Reviews Editor for 15 years.