A first feature by the 32-year-old Chen Kaige, Yellow Earth is the breakthrough film that the Chinese cinema has been needing for many, many years. It is set in the arid hills of Northern Shaanxi in 1939. A soldier arrives in a mountain village and is billeted with a poor widower and his daughter and son; the soldier has been sent from the Communist base at Yan’an to collect local songs as examples of peasant culture. He is disturbed and baffled by much of what he finds in the village and when he learns that the widower’s 12-year-old daughter is to be forced into a marriage, he realizes helplessly that he is a powerless to intervene…. The film’s political candor matches its aesthetic daring. The images, exquisitely composed, derive from the traditions of Shaanxi peasant painting and Chen uses them as the basis for a film “language” unlike anything else in contemporary cinema. The summit of his achievement is that he makes his new language sing.
Directed by Kaige Chen | Starring : Xueqi Wang, Bai Xue, Quiang Liu, Tuo Tan | Presented at Locarno Film Festival, Toronto Film Festival, Hawaii Film Festival, Edinburgh Film Festival