Sunday, 7 October 2007

Blind Mountain (2007)

After an official ban (typically 3 years) on his last award-studded film Blind Shaft, he followed with another film to tackle another glaring social problem in China.

If Chinese film makers highlight all the social problems in their films, they will be set for the next 30 - 50 years. Of course, some of these problems will either be diminished or gone by then due to its industrialisation/modernisation, political and social reforms. Of course, we'll have new social issues by then, the kind that are usually dealt with in Taiwanese film - middle class personal dramas. One could only hope.

I like the balance that Li Yang brings to his movies. His 1st film deals with the social problem that brought about by greed and industrialisation. This movie brings attention to a social problem of not enough industrialisation.

The kid from the countryside in Blind Shaft represents the innocence and simplicity of the country folks. This is what city folks like to see. 'Blind Mountain' is just a more polite, but less colourful American term for 'hillbilies'. The point is, such ignorance-led bigotry caused by remoteness is sadly universal. Despite America's much longer industrialisation - about 0.5 century ahead of PRC, remoteness still has a hold on heartlands of KKK. The point is, hillbillies are NOT confined to USA, China too has their class of home-grown hillbillies. I'm sure America has less hillbillies now than 5 decades ago, and I'm also certain that China would have less hillbillies in 0.5 century from now.

In olden days, arranged marriages were the norm in China. Modern Chinese refer to it as 'blind marriage and mute nuptial' (盲婚啞嫁) because literally your bribe/groom could be blind or mute. Figuratively speaking, in the arranged marriage, the couples may never meet until the day of their wedding, hence blind, and have no say in the marriage, hence mute or dumb.

It isn't hard to see how such BLIND arrangement could eventual lead to the acceptance of the buying of bribes. Marriages were never the decision of the couple. The marriage was arranged without the knowledge of our heroine. The scam couldn't have taken place otherwise.

There's another allusion to the word 'blind' in this movie. Chinese word for illiterate is 'wen mang' (文盲), which literally means BLIND to letters/words or civilisation/civility. Words open people's eyes. And the people in this village think reading is a waste of time.

There's yet another blindness, many people turn a blind eye when our heroine pleas for help. And the long arm of the law just not reaching far enough into the Chinese Deep North mountainous rural regions (as expressed by the Chinese saying "the mountains are high, and the Emperor is far away" (山高皇帝遠)). I'm suddenly in a mood to quote Chinese sayings.

It's these 3 blindness - outdated tradition(arranged marriage), illiteracy, indifference - that leads to the tragedy of our heroine.

This movie also touches very briefly on another social problem that is much more widespread than this one - the killing of baby girls. Again this problem is much more confined to the rural areas than the city. Of course, this is a tragic side effect of the One-Child Policy. But such preference of boys over girls is very outdated regardless of One-Child Policy.

I hope Chinese director would make a movie about this inhumane practise that once again caused by blindness. And make the showing of this movie to villages and 2nd and 3rd tier cities and small towns FOR FREE. They showed Communist party propaganda films in the villages in the past for free. The opening of people's eyes is surely more important. Well, we can't have a loss of face, PRC. Let's live in denial.

Maybe Li Yang should make this the topic of his next movie called Blind Love. A trilogy of great films that highlight the social blindness of China. And open our and their eyes.

Unlike Blind Shaft where the scenery is grey and depressed to indicate the degradation of the environment. This movie is set against a typical unspoilt, magnificent verdant natural beauty of the countryside. This is of course, an irony, for this is essentially a forced labour prison camp for our heroine that she would do anything to break out.

On the 1 hand, this movie is the exact opposite of Not One Less. I.e. our heroine from the countryside is being victimised by the city (folks). While in this movie, the opposite is the case.

On the other hand, and at a deeper level, the 2 movies address an identical social problem - i.e. the lack of education in the remote villages. This in turn is caused by an vast income disparity between the city and the rural. If the income level of the countryside is lifted anywhere closer to the city, education would become more widely available, and such outdated, culturally backward, and indeed illegal practise wouldn't have occurred in a cultural desert that's cut off from the nourishment of civilisation.

Another parallel with Not One Less is that both movies used mostly non-professional act(ors/resses). It's quite effective, they look like real characters in a movie, not act(ors/resses) playing parts.

Sometimes, reality is even more cruel and frightening. If you ready for it, you can check out my article.

This movie won 3 international awards.

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