Apple Made a Lovely Short Film About the Bonds of Family and Home in Rapidly Changing China

The Chinese New Year spot was shot entirely on an iPhone XS

A young man returns to the city after visiting his mother, who sent along a heavy, inconvenient bucket containing a connection to home. Apple
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Connections to home can often feel like an anchor, one that grounds you to your roots but also occasionally feels like a weight that’s a lot to carry when you’d rather wander free.

In its new ad for the Chinese New Year, Apple follows up the tremendous success of its “Three Minutes” short film from 2018 with “The Bucket,” a story of a young Chinese professional preparing to return home from a holiday visit with his mother.

While much of the ad is a scenic travelogue from rural China back into the thrum of city life, the centerpiece is a rather unceremonious white bucket, held tight with yellow tape. It’s a gift from the young man’s mother, one of many Chinese parents who send their adult kids back with flavors of home.

It’s a tradition that sparks mixed feelings among Chinese millennials, who might appreciate the gesture but also roll their eyes a bit at the burden of having to carry large culinary packages all the way back home. (On that note, definitely stick around for the photo gallery of young people with their food gifts at the end of the video.)

Created by TBWA\Media Arts Lab’s Shanghai office, the video was helmed by influential Chinese director Jia Zhahngke and shot entirely on the iPhone XS.

For those who might be confused by the ending, what the star of the video discovers is that the bucket contained freshly laid farm eggs, some with dates they were hatched and one with a smiley face to show his mother’s love. While hauling a bucket of sand across hundreds of miles just to transport some eggs might sound a bit like an unnecessary burden, it’s intended to also be a metaphor for the fragile but unbroken bonds of family across long distances.

In the behind-the-scenes videos below, director Zhahngke explains how he used slow-mo and depth-control features to create the some of the films visually compelling moments:

And here’s a look at some of the out-of-home that will be running with the campaign:

Here’s a look back at last year’s Chinese New Year Apple video, “Three Minutes,” the emotional story of a mother and child who only have a few scant moments to be reunited for the holiday:

@griner David Griner is creative and innovation editor at Adweek and host of Adweek's podcast, "Yeah, That's Probably an Ad."