Films We Like is pleased to announce that Johnny Ma’s debut feature, Old Stone (Lao Shi) has been awarded the City of Toronto Award for Best Canadian First Feature Film after its North American Premiere at TIFF in the Discovery Programme.

Jury members Anita Lee, Hal Niedzviecki and Mina Shum presented the award Sunday, September 18, 2016 from Toronto’s TIFF Bell Lightbox, site of TIFF16’s Awards Presentations.  The jury (including Luc Dery who could not attend the ceremony) determined “For its remarkably mature, powerfully rendered portrait of an innocent taxi driver caught in a proto-capitalist China, the jury is pleased to award Best Canadian First Feature Film to Old Stone directed by Johnny Ma.”

Michael Boyuk of Canadian distributor Films We Like accepted the award and cash prize of $15,000 on director-writer Johnny Ma’s behalf.

In a written statement Johnny Ma said; “I want to share this honour with my four producers, Wu Xian Jian, Sarah Stallard, Jing Wang and Chi An Lin, who have stuck with me from the beginning. I also want to thank TIFF Canadian programmers, Steve, Magali, and Ravi, for giving us the platform at Toronto to present Old Stone to the best audience in the world.”
“And finally, I just want to thank my mother and father for taking a chance on Canada over 25 years ago when we immigrated here, so that I can have the opportunity to call myself a Canadian, and be here today… at TIFF 2016… to realize my dreams.”

In Johnny Ma’s thrilling debut feature, Old Stone (Lao Shi), starring Chen Gang, Nai An (SuzhouRiver, When Night Falls,) and Wang Hongwei (Platform, Unknown Pleasures, Still Life)
a Chinese taxi driver finds himself plunged into a Kafkaesque nightmare where no good deed goes unpunished. Beginning as a gritty social-realist drama before u-turning into a blood drenched noir, Old Stone follows the repercussions of a car accident in a society where life is cheap and compassion is ruinously expensive.

When a drunken passenger causes Lao Shi (in a magnificent performance by Chen Gang)to swerve and hit a motorcyclist, he stops to help the injured man. When no police or ambulance arrive he drives the victim to the hospital, checks him in and finds himself liable for the man’s medical bills. The repercussions of Shi’s selfless act expose a society rife with bone-chilling callousness and bureaucratic indifference. On the verge of losing his cab, his job and his family, Lao Shi has to resort to desperate measures to survive.

No stranger to TIFF, Ma has presented two short films at the festival; The Genius from Quintino (2013) and A Grand Canal (2014) and was the winner of Telefilm Canada’s Pitch This! at TIFF in 2014.

Old Stone (Lao Shi) is distributed in Canada by Films We Like and will open on Friday, December 9, 2016 at the TIFF Bell Lightbox.  The U.S. distributor Zeitgeist Films will release the film in NYC on November 30, 2016.

Johnny Ma, Director, Screenwriter
Johnny was born as Nan Ma, in Shanghai, China, and immigrated to Toronto at age of ten. After careers in mergers acquisition in the business and fashion world, Johnny first made the move to documentary filmmaking in 2008. Graduating from Columbia University’s M.F.A. in the Directing / Screenwriting film program, Johnny’s short films have screened at TIFF, Dallas International Film Festival, Aspen Shortfest and other international festivals, while receiving awards from DGA and National Board of Review as well as a nomination for the Canadian Screen Awards.

Johnny is currently developing his second feature project also set in China. He is a recent alum of the 2014 Sundance Institute Screenwriting / Directing Lab and winner of the Telefilm Canada Pitch This! competition.

Nai An, Actor, Executive Producer
Actress Nai An, who plays Lao Shi’s wife Mao Mao, and executive-produced the film, is best known as the long time producing partner of acclaimed Chinese director Lou Ye whose films include Suzhou River and the Cannes competition entries Summer Palace and Purple Butterfly. She also won the Best Actress award at Locarno for her performance in When Night Falls.
Founded by award-winning documentary filmmaker Ron Mann (Grass, Comic Book Confidential, Altman) Films We Like is a boutique distributor of documentary, independent and international films in Canada. Recent releases include Force Majeure, Finding Vivian Maier, and the Academy Award-winner Ida.
Running time:  80 minutes
Origin:  China/Canada
Mandarin with English subtitles
Download press kit and highrez images

Media Contact for Films We Like:
Virginia Kelly, Meghan Parnell
V Kelly & Associates
Media Contact for Zeitgeist Films:
Sophie Gluck 
Aimee Morris