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Yellow Earth
(Huang Tu Di)
China - 1984
Directed  by Chen Kaige


An early example of the New China genre, set in 1937, Yellow Earth concisely illustrates the clash of the cultural traditions of northern China with the newly formed communist government.  Gu (Wang Xueyin), a young communist soldier arrives in a rural northern Chinese community to document regional folk songs.  Part of a plan to reach "the people", he articulates a new hope to Cuiqiao (Xue Bai), the daughter of his hosting family.  She cannot believe her ears when he tells her of the freedom that young women in the People's Army enjoy.  She has been betrothed to a man that she doesn't know and for the first time in her life, she sees a way out.  She longs to cut her hair short and sing songs and march with the comrades.

Not only commenting on the plight of women in China, this films really comments on the plight of women in general.  Discovering that even though she may physically transplant herself, Cuiqiao cannot escape the values and traditions that she has inherited.  "Of all us poor folk," she says, "girls are the saddest."

The cinematography by Zhang Yimou (director of Ju Dou and Shanghai Triad) is exceptional, using carefully composed shots of domestic scenes and graceful landscapes.  The film also offered a rare opportunity to hear ethnic folk songs of northern China.  The sounds of Chinese music are so different from western music, it was a luxury to see and hear the performances of the singers.   Yellow Earth should stand the test of time as a classic film. 

Runtime:  90 minutes

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