Tibet, 1980s: Dargye and Drolkar’s two boisterous youngest sons have blown up their parents’ condoms like balloons. Not only does this outrage their entire village, but more practically: they have no more condoms. The shepherd couple already have three sons, and as China has recently introduced its one-child policy, they can’t have any more.
Once China’s one-child policy was relaxed in 2015 – now permitting two children per family – space opened up for films examining the often profoundly traumatic consequences of this measure. Tseden takes a drily comic approach to the subject here, captured in deceptively simple handheld footage full of implicit symbolism. In his world, there is no chasm between modernity and tradition; rather, the two gently rub against each other.
With its cool colour palette, attentive handheld camerawork, and painterly passages that seem to transpire somewhere between this world and the next, Balloon approaches weighty themes with beguiling brio and a sense of wonder.