I love documentaries that give you a peek inside a part of the world you’ve never heard of or have always wanted to know more about. This story falls in the former category.
This story is about a village isolated by its geographic inaccessibility, a plateau on the side of a cliff, a thousand above the mighty Yangtze River. It’s a perilous place to live your life. During the film, every time a little kid bounced a ball over a fence, you held your breath hoping he didn’t go chasing it over the side.
What seems like a delicate but wonderfully simple and peaceful existence, with one tiny school run by one teacher for nearly 30 years, is ripped apart by the arrival of young volunteer teachers who want to bring the village into the 21st century. The village will never be the same again.
Conflict erupts, pitting the old school thinking against the new. Allegations of corruption abound. I found myself torn between rooting for the underdog and wondering if the underdog was actually a crook. This film kept me guessing, kept me interested and made me examine my own prejudices about my complex life and naïve yearning for a more primitive life, one that is actually hated by the ones living it.
I guess very few are happy with what they have, but you’ll be glad you went and saw this documentary. It’s not perfect, but it’s a world you’ve never seen before.
(China) Dir/ Writer: Hongjie Xu