DIR: Huang Ji | Egg and Stone | China | 2012 | 98 mins | Hunanese
Thu Nov 8, 7:40 PM | Innis Town Hall | Director in Attendance
I was glad to have taken a meditative swim after watching this film. I had been anticipating this film with a quiet sense of dread. As my arms methodically dove and pushed through the water, I thought more about the film that I had just watched.
For me, this was about pushing myself out of my cinema comfort zone (usually occupied by documentaries and animated movies) and the film did not disappoint. This film is not for those who will be uncomfortable with the subject matter: a haunting story of a young girl’s coming of age. Yang Honggui plays Honggui, a 14-year-old girl in rural China who lives with her aunt and uncle. Her parents seemingly abandoned her seven years prior to work in the city and perhaps under other circumstances as well. She lives in strange balance with their relatives, neither embraced as a loved child nor respected as a housework tenant.
A major theme in director Huang Ji’s work is the second class view of women. We know that Honggui has been left by her parents, yet a younger (and it is assumed, male) sibling remains. Ji uses Chinese prayers or sutras as a recurring theme to note how blood shed by women (through childbirth, menstruation, etc.) taints virtuous men and how women have to cleanse themselves of their sins. As the sutras make their varied appearances in the film, we are presented with different examples and images of how Honggui’s world is one that would prefer not to include her, except as a potential carrier of a male child.
To me, the most valuable insight came after doing some research on the film. I would suggest to those who are interested in watching the second screening to stay for the Q&A. The director Huang Ji is a young Chinese woman who based this film on her own experiences. In fact, it was shot in her hometown with her relatives playing roles in the movie. I wish I knew that before I saw the movie, as I feel I would have appreciated the story more.
The film suggests more than it informs and even while the credits are rolling, you are left to wonder the truth behind some of the mysteries presented. In a way, this is far more an effective way to give the audience a feeling of tragedy. The ideas of our own can be so twisted, but are they that far from the truth?
The film is beautifully shot—the cinematographer is actually Ji’s partner. Their combined project is so very evidently personal and the results are reflective of their passion. The wonderful use of natural light fully shows off rural China—the misty mountainside, the stone shacks, the lush forests—they are all there. Delicious eye candy for those with that particular taste. It is worth to note that the actors are non-professional, but this doesn’t hamper Ji’s film whatsoever. Yang Honggui gives a natural performance that is both vulnerable and strong. It is incredible to think that this girl was plucked out of school for this role. Perhaps since she lives in the town and may be familiar with similar circumstances, she is the best person to tell Huang Ji’s story.
Billie-Ann is a communications professional based in Vancouver. She is a past contributor to Schema. You can follow her on Twitter, @tweetinteddy.