Return to Dust

Directed by Li Ruijun
Film Movement
133 Minutes
Drama, Asian, Romance
Not Rated

Humble, unassuming Ma and timid Cao have been cast off by their families and forced into an arranged marriage. They have to combine their strength and build a home to survive. 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. A story about eternal love, against the odds.

Director & Cast




  • "Return To Dust [features] beautifully-judged performances that radiate warmth and encourage empathy. It marks Li Ruijun as a significant cinematic talent."
    Anna Smith, Deadline Hollywood
  • "This poetic tale of an arranged marriage which blossoms into a true partnership is Li’s most affecting and accessible work to date."
    John Berra, Screen Daily
  • "An unhurried but hypnotic portrait of two discards thrown together to scratch out a life as they weather the seasons."
    David Rooney, The Hollywood Reporter
  • "“Return to Dust” is an absorbing, beautifully framed drama...."
    Jessica Kiang, Variety
  • "A gorgeous piece of cinema...."
    Nicholas Bell, Ion Cinema
  • "It’s an intimate drama that... moves you with its warm humanist core.... Both leads are remarkable."
    Zhuo-Ning Su, Awards Daily
  • "Wu Renlin, who stars as the farmer, shines in a deeply humane film that also deals with the conflict between rural traditions and increasing modernisation."
    James Mottram, South China Morning Post
  • "Weihua Wang’s elegant camerawork... proves irresistible. While “Return to Dust” envisions an entire country in microcosm, it also reflects how a relationship can open up the entire world...."
    Stephen Saito, The Moveable Fest
  • "It’s a tremendously graceful piece of filmmaking, with a light, compassionate touch. All the pieces come together in a richly satisfying way...."
    Oliver Johnston, The Upcoming
Golden Bear
Berlin Int'l. Film Festival
Official Selection
Karlovy Vary Int'l. Film Festival