China 2007, Documentary, 114' | Director, Screenplay, DoP, Production Yan Feng | Editor Yan Feng, Mathieu Haessler | Sound Yang Zhang

Bingai lives in the province of Hubei, the area from which hundreds of thousands of people were resettled by the Chinese government to make way for the building of the Three Gorges Dam. But the young woman and mother refuses to move from the village Guilin. What exactly lies behind this stubbornness was observed by filmmaker Feng Yan in two time frames, 1996 and 2002.

The opening scene introduces the setting: clouds hanging over a valley, a muddy river, a disappearing landscape. We see a woman who is washing clothes. She says that she loved a man, but got married by the banks of the river at her parents behest. From there she wouldn't have to carry water so far. Now the villagers are dismantling their houses and are resettling, the flooding is imminent. This time Bingai reacts differently: she resists, stays in the place to where she has been uprooted, and defends the very things she has rejected: her husband, her shack, this life.

River and earth are shaped by Feng into a dichotomous landscape of images, between leaving and persevering. "If I were a modern woman, I would have left", Bingai says, but she also says: "Life in the city is fun. I'm not looking for fun." The camera scrutinises Bingai's strength - or defiance - again and again: in arguments with her family, in her doubts about the future of her children, in her struggle with the authorities. When the village collective makes a run for it, this creates space for the woman's sense of purpose.

At the beginning of the film it seems strange that Bingai herself is shouldering the huge orange basket at harvest time, while her husband trudges behind. At the end it becomes clear: party machinery also begins to falter, and even the wide river ? a synonym for the power of the government ? gives way to the images of minor party secretaries, nervously insisting on the laws of the State.


Feng Yan was born in 1962 in Tianjin. She studied literature at Kyoto University in Japan, where she lived for thirteen years. From the mid-90's she made documentations about rural areas in China, as well as a number of feature films. Dreams of Changjiang, her first full-length documentary, won an award at the 1998 Taiwan Documentary Film Festival. Her new film, Woman Of Yangtze River is currently at the post-production stage.

Yan Feng
Focus: China