Thursday, October 04, 2007

Meili De Dajiao (For the Children)

This movie is also known as Pretty Big Feet in UK and I feel this title suits better this strange movie (but the best is the literal translation: Mieli’s Big Feet that refers to the main character generous spirit) with an outstanding story set in a small northwest China village on the Loess Plateau and tells about a rural woman teacher Zhang Meili, played by Ni Ping, trying to help the villagers to overcome poverty. She believed education was the only way locals could change their fate.

The movie centers on three relationships - the communication between Zhang and a Beijing volunteer Xia Yu, played by Yuan Quan; the intimacy/love affair between Zhang and Wang Shu, the village projectionist, played by Sun Haiying; and the special commitment by the two teachers to the village's children. Zhang and Xia Yu - with different social backgrounds - experience conflicts, understanding and friendship. Zhang, despite living in a poverty-stricken area, encourages her students, much like herself, to maintain their dignity.

The movie has very good cinematography with dessert scenes of a region than in the story had not seen rain in 3 years and perhaps in reality is not far from that. The acting is very good but different to other Chinese movies I have seen, as the acting and the way the movie is done makes me think of a cinema of another era, like from the 30’s or 40’s, but the style totally changes when the characters go to Beijing.

This 2002 movie is my first movie by director Yazhou Yang who is renowned for his films and television series depicting China’s ordinary citizens and I’m looking forward to be able to see more of his work. The movie won four awards at the 2002 The Roosters that are China’s top film awards, winning Best Film, Best Director, Best Actress for Ni Ping and Best Supporting Actress for Yuan Quan.

To my eyes this movie has a very different style than other Chinese movies I have seen and I am not sure if it would please usual Chinese movie fans, but the movie was extremely well received by Chinese audiences. I just loved the story, liked the performances, but those black screens cutting the scenes short and the again coming back to the same scene… well, not really the kind of editing I like, but as I mentioned movies used to be like that in the past, to add dramatic intent.

If you want to see a different but good Chinese movie give it a try.

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