Young teen girl Xiu Xiu is sent away to a remote corner of the Sichuan steppes for manual labor in 1975 (sending young people to there was a part of Cultural Revolution in China). A year ... See full summary »
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Young teen girl Xiu Xiu is sent away to a remote corner of the Sichuan steppes for manual labor in 1975 (sending young people to there was a part of Cultural Revolution in China). A year later, she agrees to go to even more remote spot with a Tibetan saddle tramp Lao Jin to learn horse herding. Written by
Director Joan Chen has fashioned a lovely, slow-moving film, "Xiu Xiu - the Sent Down Girl" about the abuses of the Chinese Cultural Revolution seen through the eyes of one girl, Xiu Xiu. Yet the film is more than a tale about the misguided totalitarian state and its pervasive influence on everyone's lives. "Xiu Xiu" is also about a special relationship between the girl and her mentor and protector, Jao Lin. It would be an oversimplification to call it a love story because the film only hints at any romance between the two (Xiu Xiu spends much of the film in contempt of Jao). Indeed their contrasting lives could not be more pronounced. Jao Lin is a horse herder, a man of the soil, one who cleans himself when it rains, and a victim of a castration leaving him without his manhood. The much younger girl, Xiu Xiu, is from the modern city, doing her duty until she can return to her loving family and to a boy who yearns for her; she with the soft, innocent smile, and the daintiness to appreciate a kaleidoscope or a freshly dug waterhole. They must live together in one tent for six months because headquarters' has mandated that Xiu Xiu learn horse herding. While adapting to each other's needs, Xiu Xiu seems to have the upper hand on Lao (she bosses him around like a hired hand) but there is a strange, intuitive feeling between them that is really not appreciated until the very last scene. As the story develops, six months have passed and Xiu Xiu still cannot return home because her family is too poor to bribe officials to take her back. At the heart of this film is the evil that those in power do to those who are too weak to fight them. Men from headquarters' regularly have sex with Xiu Xiu, sometimes with the frustrated Lao in the same tent, since Xiu Xiu mistakenly assumes these men will help her get back home. All Lao can do is watch because even as he tries to protect Xiu Xiu in other ways, he is powerless to stop what is going on. What develops, slowly but surely, is another side of Lao, besides the father figure - he becomes a man who can touch but cannot possess what he wants. The latter is made clear when Lao steals Xiu Xiu's shoe and then lies to her that a man has come to steal her shoe so that he can return later to tell her of his love. "Xiu Xiu - the Sent Down Girl" succeeds in giving us a poignancy about innocence lost and about the deep meaning of sacrifice and love.
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