When I first read the synopsis for Piano in a Factory (Gang De Qin) (2010) it instantly made my “Must see” list. The film opens with a divorce, with our hero, Chen (Wang Qian-yuan) loosing his wife to another, more wealthy man. Against the backdrop of economic hardship, Chen struggles to make payments to keep is daughter in piano lessons, and when the pair is caught practicing at the music school in the middle of the night, he’s forced to manufacture a new way for his daughter to continue practicing.
Chen goes to great lengths to give his daughter access to a piano – building her a wooden keyboard, breaking and entering, attempted theft – before finally determining that the best way to give her a piano of her very own is to build one. Drawing on his friends, relatives and coworkers, Chen pools their collective skills – steel working, key cutting, music theory – to build a piano from scrap metal and recycled materials. What results is an incredibly touching portrait of a father who’ll do whatever it takes to provide for his child.
In the face of a demanding wife, a budding relationship with a friend and colleague, the threat of losing custody of his daughter, financial limitations, personal struggle and a slew of challenges we face on a daily basis, Chen approaches Brother Jin – who runs the now defunct steel factory – for space, supplies and materials needed to realize his plan. Interspersed with flashes of genuine humor and Russian ballads, Piano in a Factory is a quirky, charming and utterly endearing film that I would happily watch many times over.
Piano in a Factory (Cantonese with English subtitles) sees its Alberta premiere Saturday, September 24 at 11:45am at the Globe Cinema with an encore screening Wednesday, September 28 at 7:15pm.