Yellow Earth

  • Film
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The first 'modern' film to emerge from China, and one of the most thrilling debut features of the '80s. Its storyline couldn't be simpler. A Communist soldier visits a backward village in 1939, and is billeted with a taciturn widower and his teenage daughter and son. The soldier's mission is to collect folk songs, and it's through the exchange of songs that he gradually wins the trust and affection of his hosts. But the girl is to be sold into marriage with a much older man, and all the soldier's talk of breaking with feudal tradition fills her with unrealistic hopes of escaping her fate. The soldier returns to his base, leaving her to take her future in her own hands... There are political undercurrents here that got the film into trouble in China: the encounter between the CP and China's peasants is shown not as an instant meeting of minds, but as the uneasy, frustrating, and ultimately unresolved process that it actually was. But what really stirred things up in old Beijing was the film's insistence on going its own way. Chen Kaige and his cinematographer Zhang Yimou have invented a new language of colours, shadows, glances, spaces, and unspoken thoughts and implications; and they've made their new language sing.

Release details

Duration: 89 mins

Cast and crew

Director: Chen Kaige
Screenwriter: Zhang Ziliang
Cast: Xue Bai
Wang Xueqi
Tan Tuo
Liu Qiang
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