Dying to Survive is a drama inspired by the true story of a Chinese leukaemia patient who was arrested in 2014 for importing and selling anti-cancer drugs to patients on the mainland.
Cheng Yong (Xu Zheng) is the owner of a struggling Indian health supplements store. He becomes the exclusive agent of an unapproved anti-cancer drug from India and he begins importing it into China.
Cheng starts out importing the drug to make money, but he comes to realise how much it matters to his customers – which include a rebellious teenager, a priest, and a pole dancer. The approved version of the drug is unaffordable to all but a few. It’s not long, though, before Cheng attracts the attention of the police and he has to decide if his sympathy for his customers outweighs his respect for the law.
It is easy to see why Dying to Survive won Best Leading Actor, Best New Director and Best Original Screenplay at the 2018 Golden Horse Awards. The film is backed by a solid cast, and director Wen Muye uses clever black comedy to address an issue often thought taboo on the mainland. Xu’s opportunistic shopkeeper-turned-businessman is played to perfection, and Yang Xinming portrayal of a Christian pastor who becomes Cheng’s English translator is comedy gold.
If you’re looking for a film that is as heart-warming as it is funny, this is the one for you.