CAM Wang Bing, Huang Wenhai, Li Peifeng
EDS Wang Bing, Adam Kerby
PROD CO Chinese Shadows / Album Productions
Chinese independent filmmaker Wang Bing confirms his mastery of the documentary form with his new film. A work of sustained observation and exquisite empathy, this film takes us deeply into worlds most of us have barely imagined.
Wang and his two cameramen discovered, in the high mountains of the remote western Yunnan province of China, a family of three little sisters. The eldest, Yingying, is ten. The middle sister Zhenzhen is six, and the youngest, tiny Fenfen, is four. Their father is away working in a distant city; mother seems out of the picture. So it’s just these three girls who make up a complete functional family. Living in utter poverty (their home is a cave-like dwelling, dark, dirty, littered with root vegetables, shared with their few scrawny domestic animals), they work hard, constantly, in dirt, exhausting themselves with the daily labour of subsistence agriculture. There is a neighbouring grandfather and aunt with whom they sometimes eat. But what we see is close to a pure world of little children forced prematurely into the most difficult kind of adulthood. When, in the film’s second section, the world does open slightly, father appears and Yingying has a chance to attend school. But grandfather has other ideas.
The film’s tone is anything but despairing—and is the absolute opposite of condescending. There is a kind of invincible energy, a life force that pushes our three heroines to survive, and even to live. Wang’s camera captures their world with unimaginable beauty and a compassionate, engaged, committed eye that is the rarest of gifts.
— Shelly Kraicer